Did I Survive Songfight in NYC?

I’m back to the mighty world of music blogging. I have survived the big Songfight Live in New York show. Now, it’s time to reassess things. First up, is how did the show go? As the person doing a lot of the heavy lifting to get the show to happen, it went fairly well. The two venues were good. Bohemian Hall had quite the crowd and after we figured out our technical difficulties, it made for quite the show. Firehouse Space was a spectacular spot to do a show. It had the warmth of a house mixed with everything else we needed to put on a show. So, that aspect was good.

Then there was my performance. I definitely wasn’t happy with my set. Sometime before my set began, I started getting a wave of nervousness. This isn’t completely unusual. I’ve dealt with that before and laughed it off and pulled off a good performance. This time, it wasn’t the same. I don’t know what happened. There was a face in a crowd I didn’t know, dead center in front of me which was awkward in a room full of people I had already met. That started me off shaky. I did “Between the Rain”, a song that I feel that King Arthur performs much better than I do. I only did the song between it’s in my songfight discog, not out of some love of performing it. I think I did okay with it.

Then I did “Cuts Like”. That’s when things started to go downhill because I couldn’t get the rhythm together. The song is untested live. It’s a song that was all about production experimentation and it just didn’t translate well at all. I think it was an unmitigated flop, especially when you compare it to the recorded version. I tried to salvage things with “Lessons Learned Over Summer Vacation”. The song came out well. I think it was the song I practiced the most and it paid off. I whistled well and it wasn’t a bad song to have in the mix. But I still felt shaky and I was stumbling on the guitar. I would really love a situation where I can just sing and not have to split my focus between playing and singing because if I fuck up one of the two, I start falling apart.

I think “Cute Boots” was next and that song went over very well. On the inside, I felt like I just wanted to get off the stage. I wasn’t feeling right and I somehow was able to channel that into the raw emotion necessary for a song about a father talking about his missing daughter. I followed that with “Love is a Battlefield”. I thought the cover would help win over the crowd a little. I think it crashed and burned. At the previous NYC Songfight show, it was a highlight of my set. This time, it was a lowlight. Just a different crowd and a different set, I guess.

I prepped to cut my losses and move on the song “Experiments in Living”. The song was the first song of my collaboration with DJ Ranger Den (the group is called Mr. Nakazawa’s Book of Surprises). But Den went to the bathroom, just went I was going to call for her. To stall, I broke into the song “Woebegone”. I had been ready to cut “Woebegone” out of my set. I felt like I wasn’t going to be happy with the sound of it, because I couldn’t match the sound of the recording and the chords were a bit funky making it a place where I could make some mistakes. And boy, did I ever. The song was a mess that I wish I had ever played.

Then a funny thing happened. Den came back and we did “Experiments” with some help on the bass from Noah McLaughlin. I suddenly shook a good deal of my nerves. I don’t know what it was about the band situation that I found comforting but it worked and I played the song and felt good about it, as if I ended my set on a high note. Things only got weirder as the livefight approached, it nearer time for Mr. Nakazawa to perform again. My nerves were gone. I went into the song “Isle Dauphine” with a little confidence and had, what I felt was, my best performance of the night.

So, where am I now? Musically, I am at a bit of a crossroads. Here are things I have learned. One thing is that the whole solo live act thing may not be the thing for me. For one thing, I’m not the greatest guitarist but I am a good songwriter and a decent singer. If I focus my efforts, I think I can get a better performance. So, again, I need to find a collaborator. Another thing is the feeling that I am not producing the music that I wanna produce. Music is all about expressing yourself. I’m just not doing that in the way I want to. I want to find ways to storytell in my songs. I also have certain sounds, like drones, that I wanna touch upon.

Now is not the time to whine or to walk away (and I will sadly admit that I considered just walking away from music and sticking to writing). I need to figure out ways to create what I envision. There have got to be ways to do it. I just have to think outside of the box. It’s going to take some creative thinking, some brainpower, some social skills and a whole lot of determination. There’s an artistic path that’s calling out to me. I just have to figure out how to maneuver the roads. And hopefully, the next time I play live it will be a different story.

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