Archive for Performance

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.

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/stefon_harris_there_are_no_mistakes_on_the_bandstand?language=en

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.

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Long live Jerry Sadowitz

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2011 by Gideon K

I went to see Jerry Sadowitz do a show at the Leicester Square Theatre the other night.

I don’t really keep up to date with the world of stand up comedy, only go to shows infrequently, but it has become a yearly ritual of my brother and I to see Jerry. We’ve been to see him play in London for the past 5-6 years I think.

What is it I love about this guy?

He’s so offensive an all fronts, such a full-on assault – that no one is safe. The only true equality – he’s not racist or sexist, he hates everyone equally. Nothing is sacred.

He’s fast, brutal and unrelenting, he goes through about twice as much material as other comedians. (That’s one of his jokes/rants).

All this and he is still kicking it, despite being banned from most of the larger venues and TV channels in the UK.

It’s not just that I think he’s the most hardcore guy in stand-up and has been for a long time, I come away feeling cleansed almost, refreshed. That nice rollercoaster feeling of having all your hairs stand on end.

I get off on proximity to that kind of flamethrower approach to art and performance that he has. I need to be near it every so often, like a reminder almost.

It gives me a sense of hope about humanity to know that people can BE as extreme and full-throttle as that and still survive in this world, without becoming bland or losing colour.

I have a theory about that kind of comedy too.

That assault on everything considered taboo and un-PC. It’s necessary to destroy it all. I hate political correctness; it’s a gross assault on our freedom of speech, thought and expression, and by liars and cowards.

The need to plough through and destroy that, to me, comes from a deep sense of disgust at the way the world in general handles the every day madness and brutality of our species and lives, that it’s not just the way these things take place, it’s the way that they are talked about by people, in the news. That kind of layer of deceit, the casual lies – just as offensive and deadly.

So this kind of scorched earth approach act is an attempt to level the field back to zero, to gain some realistic perspective. Outright rage is the only reasonable answer to it.

Just my theory.

I doubt Jerry would agree, but who cares?

Long live Jerry Sadowitz