Archive for the Gigs Category

The Sacred Space

Posted in Creativity, Gigs, Playing Live with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by Gideon K

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of TED talks and think it’s a wonderful online resource that makes me hopeful about humanity and mankind. I recently watched a clip that my friend posted up, about how in Jazz there are no mistakes – nothing is ever a mistake, only a failure to respond to the input and failure to accept the gift of that moment.

It was a wonderful clip.

But aside from me relating to it from a musical perspective in terms of live performance, being in bands, or just playing in general, it set my mind wandering and thinking of live performance.

It’s not just about the band playing either.

Currently, I am not performing live in a band, but playing solo shows – just me and an acoustic guitar. However, I never feel like it’s just me and my guitar, because I don’t see it that way.

To think that playing live is about just getting enough practice in beforehand, and then playing your songs one after another until the time is up, is for lack of a better term ‘a mistake’. There is a whole range of opportunity being wasted, gifts being sent back. It is important to accept, and to take everything.

In some ways you can be more open to it as a solo performer, and might be able to hear it clearer and more directly. The audience is part of the show, the room is part of the show, the lighting, the noise in the room or outside, the time of day, season, EVERYTHING.

I’m always throwing bait out to try and get a reaction from a crowd, not so much because I’m attention seeking (that’s a given when you’re up onstage with a guitar!), but so I can get some kind of reading of what the level of mood is etc and play to/with them accordingly.

I’m always looking out for some rough edge, some unexpected stimulus that I can use in the show right then and there. I don’t want to miss something good that I can turn into something else.

For example, I was playing one venue and noticed the sound man was wearing a Bad Brains T-shirt. I got the idea in my head to play one of their songs, then and there on acoustic guitar. You could call this a stupid idea, whimsical, novelty, or inspiration. All might be true. But to me, it was a clue even, or just something I could smell on the trail to the unknown.

If I get up there and sing my songs from beginning to end, I know exactly what is going to happen. But I want adventure, and I want something fun, crazy or weird to happen and I don’t mind falling flat on my face to do this.

How I think this ties in with the notion of their being no mistakes, is that sometimes it is possible to use whatever happens in any moment as something useful and beautiful. I had a great time recently where in the middle of one of my songs I completely forgot the words. I stopped the song, held the silence in the air for a while, retried it, still couldn’t remember the lyrics, held my arm up in the air for silence, told everyone it would be worth the wait, then carried on with the song exactly at the point I’d left it once I remembered the lyrics.

I’ve had shows where this has worked, because I’ve kept the tension up in the room, and used the occasion. Equally, I played a show not that long ago, where an attempt was made and I still couldn’t remember the words (I must be getting old, hehe) and I failed to accept the moment I was in, by reacting to it appropriately.

All I aim for each night I gig is that I learn something from the experience, even if nobody else does.

The best way for me to do this I’ve found is to always be looking for how I can use my surroundings as part of my array of props in the show.

I’m not advocating going out of your way to forget lyrics or to mess up. I’m just saying that whenever I’ve found myself in an unplanned situation live, accepting and using it has always brought about the best, most enjoyable and most memorable results

Like a good friend of mine says – everything is a weapon.