Full disclosure, this is a post about a learning experience and not an invitation to a pity party. However, it will not be an easy journey.
One year ago yesterday, my wife and I lost a very dear friend to the ravages of cancer. As one can imagine, I expected August 24th to be an emotionally heavy day. However, I have had to hold my gigging back because I myself was diagnosed with cancer December 2017. But, that is for a separate post. No sooner did I stop treatments, I received calls for gigs. I also have been corresponding with a Supercrash the band whom I believe is about to pop here in the Portland metro area. Since I support young talent I unwittingly agreed to have them open for me on...you guessed it, on the anniversary of our most beloved friend's death. The boys were excited and I had comitted. My word is my bond. I have performed with a headache and sung with a fever making those same shows memorable as a badge of honor. This was different. The boys arrived early and set up the small stage in a way that I could not set myself up without undoing all their hard work. And I had indeed reminded them not to arrive late. They were nervous. They had practiced long and hard so, they had my blessing regardless of my inner conflict. The room was giddy with an almost prophetic teenaged "I knew them when" excitement. And, needless to say, their debut was a smashing success! They barreled through their 5 song set list like pros on a mission yet so quickly, that I was caught by surprise when they'd finished early. I wasn't worried because they had help breaking down and I am usually very efficent to set up. They graciously asked the rapidly emptying room to stay a while to listen to their host (me) but, 1) their friends were done. And 2) Something was off. Way off. I could not get my system to work. PA guitar amp and 3 guitars of prepared. Nothing. By the time I managed to eek a sound out, I lost half of the cute teeny boppers! After what seemed an eternity, I got my system going and the room collectively sighed with relief. Their skeptic looks were totally understandable. My generosity was not their fault. In their eyes, I was a 50 yr old wanna-be hosting a punk band that can't get his stuff together. However, 35 yrs of performing helps. I embraced the awkward moment and eased their discomfort with comedy. I wasn't about to compete with the energy of three young punk rockers who killed their debut. I meant to start nice and easy with a reggae pop tune and could see from the looks of disbelief that they really thought they were goinh to be kind to the old guy. It is without fictitious humility that I say, they as well as I had no idea, that although I may have lost a large part of the crowd during my fiasco but, whoever stayed, was about to learn a huge lesson in performance. Once the crowd and I warmed up, two hours of no lulls, no filler, cohesive story telling and experienced banter, and lots of audience participation went by. To my surprise...I was playing more fluid than ever before. I had as they say in basketball, a "hot hand." I did get emotional as expected, but, it was cathartic and my lovely friend's memory helped elevate me. I finished drained and was asked by the staff to play a few more songs as they closed shop. I confessed to them with full transparency why it was an emotional show. I obliged their request on condition that they allow me to play my friend's favorite songs and explained why they were special to us. Two staff members and one lone student were visibly moved. By the end of the night, at least three people told me that my music had resonated with them and the stories that accompanied would forever be with them. One young man told me that one of my instrumentals was his favorite. Did that help me forget my technical issues? No, but more importantly, I had some form of artistic healing, anxd resolve. I unwittingly had survived my darkest hour without wallowing in self pity. And that is the lesson that my friend taught me. It's why I shared "Dragonfly" with those few people because our path is not always straight. We might go sideways a bit before making it to our final destination, wherever that may be. It's ALL a learning experience on our path to personal excellence. We cannot expect happiness to come from music. Music can only help us find purpose. Do we play music or explore artistic endeavors only when things are perfect, or do we proudly wear our badge of courage when we survive remarkably like the gossamer wings on a dragonfly, surprisingly resilient through rainy days?
The next day I went into my music room to lick my wounds and to find out what went so technically wrong at my gig. Ironically enough, I found the culprit was not one but TWO fried cables. No sooner had I plugged the new cables in, did my system ROAR back on, giving my wife the fright of a lifetime!!! That's why it went sideways! But, remember, that BOTH my wife and I were in a funk over the loss of our friend? Just as she started to say, "what is your problem mister?" when our grand-daughter proudly brought fresh baked GF cookies she made herself. Catharsis!