Nothing Interesting About Grange Moor – Acoustic Club (10/06/2015)

Back at this open mic after a fortnight’s absence and the compere has it sewn up: it’s quiztime. The theme this week is The Villages of Yorkshire. One question is ‘Is there anything interesting about Grange Moor?’. The correct answer is ‘no’ and Michael, in the front row, scores one point.

This is a flourishing garden of banter; new flora emerging weekly, weed blooms timely nipped. But always the purpose is maintained – the lawn is kept because the lawn is a stage.

One guy has a witty lyric about ‘shoving a massive camel through a tiny needle eye’. Someone else has an abstract talent for foot-shuffling, this time demonstrating his abilities from a seated position, in an exhibition that bears the hallmark of sobriety’s farewell. Yes, the Acoustic Club is in full swing, and remains this way until late, at which times uprising musicians litter the stage and jam, paying charming homage to one long-standing attendee by collective cover. That all six or seven on stage knew and could play this song impromptu, written by a member of the audience, pretty much sums up the genuine sense of community that is second nature here. It’s a group that thrives on an unthinking mutual respect, on collaboration and inspiration reciprocated; purely on the enjoyment of one-another’s creativity.

As for me, I first-half debuted and recovered from a first-verse choke, which is a nursery for confidence I guess, and didn’t mind too much my mistakes in the second song because you could hear a pin drop, and I liked that. It’s pretty rare I feel totally at ease on the stage but this was one of those.

And under these circumstances, a day’s work on three hours’ sleep is easy.

Immeasurable Numbers – Acoustic Club (Bar 1:22) 26/08/2014

As a substantial tally of big tunes were metered up by my compering interludes at this week’s club like the filling of some incredibly edible multi-storey arse-burger of a sandwich, I reflected on the difficulty of being the host.

The regular compere makes it look easy. He invents little games to break the ice. He introduces a nugget here for a later comic reference there. He looks comfortable.

For me, it’s about being able to handle the verbal absence. The briefest pause and I’m ready to blurt out the first phrase making itself cognitively available, and hastily get the next act on the stage. But you have to let it breathe; inhale that radio silence. Become calm, start to flow and let the audience in. And that takes balls. I need to grow balls.

As it were.

There’s an instructive dichotomy that manifests to the performer. The performer learns that his show is justifiably termed an act.  At times, you feel a unity between audience and performer (the bond of concert). At others, you could stick a whale between what they’re thinking and what you are. Anyway, I’m leaving Tuesday with the attitude of ‘job well done’, even though this last effort places in the latter category. Big shout out to the guy in the audience who prompted for me a compere’s applause at the end.

And the size of the numbers was outstanding. I literally ran out of superlatives. Songs were enormous; collaborations were colossal. The magnitude of one contributor’s effort was ‘of boundless enormity’. As one bright spark noted, this incremental trend could not continue indefinitely – still, it was indeed a pleasure to play host to such breadth, and remind myself why I love The Acoutic Club.

Which is why I’m happy to be returning next week as performer.

 

Debutants – Acoustic Club (Bar 1:22) 19/08/2014

This post will be in the spirit of artistic therapy via the medium of mass brain data dump.

Debuting a composition is always scary. Seldom does it just flow out nicely first time around, even if it’s been aired to the rehearsal room walls a dozen times in the preceding week. That moment of first presentation always instills within me a sharp sense of panic; it’s the Juggling Effect.

The Juggling Effect: You rehearse a trick meticulously until it’s perfect. You perform the trick. You drop all the balls.

On this night I managed to hold all the balls. Playing Clock Handshake, something unexpected occurred in the old psychological realm, just prior to the third verse. I began to question the worth of the composition. I bottled out, hastily recompiliing the only loosely-defined structure of the back-end of the number, so as to end it with minimum fuss. I am calling it the Third Verse Crash.

Lucidity Indicator, in the second half, went the same way. This was a more severe tumble, during a tune which had been aired once before, in which the whole song suddenly seemed worthless. Even worse than worthless – kitsch; pretentious, forced and over-decorated. A collage of too many intricacies that just looks uniform and bland. Empty. I literally hated the song in that instant. Is that the power of Third Verse Crash? I mean, I had spent many hours lovingly crafting this one, during which times I felt it meant something.

Definitely a confidence thing. I was removing the word ‘I’ from the lyrics where possible, worrying that the song appeared too self-centred. I had revealed too much.

I didn’t sleep well. I resolved to take some positives. At least I had debuted, and pushed myself. I had felt like I couldn’t go on, like I would forget the middle eight when it came, but I had carried on and my fingers and vocal chords had found it. I had held the balls. Perhaps I had even thrown them well.

How to solve the Crash? Is it a problem of structure? I get bored repeating myself; I can’t write choruses. I have always held in high regard my mate Chris Lynn’s principle that as a musician, you have to be comfortable repeating yourself. I know I am not comfortable. Is that because I dislike repetition, or is the discomfort elsewhere? I have been flirting mentally again with the ‘I’m not a natural performer’ train that leads to jacking it all in. I am absolutely not going there again. I have worked hard to get back to enjoying doing this. There must be a solution.

Maybe Lucidity Indicator doesn’t need a third verse, or that elusive bridge that finds it nicely. Perhaps the whole tune can just be sliced in half, curtailed abruptly after chorus one, when all the useful prose has been spouted. And of course, no one’s obliged to perform every song they’ve created.

Accepting the compering duties at next week’s meeting was the evening’s best move. I am looking forward to it!

 

 

 

Introduce Yourself – Acoustic Club (Bar 1:22) 12/08/14

This week at the acoustic club: a fine attendance! Big smiles as I entered, casting eyes over the solid throng of players and watchers, seeing staff members retrieving emergency furniture from back rooms and then searching for a free slice of floor space to add my instrument to the impressive collection already set down.

And a new game; a fresh piece of banter from the compere, inviting individual members of the audience to tell the remainder about themselves, receiving in return a collective greeting. A finely woven piece of intermittent interluditude. This was the gravy to the night’s sausage: it gets the crowd geed up, endowing the stage with a warmth for the whole room to get high off.

A nice mix, methought, this evening. Two solo saxophonists, some poetry and ‘spontaneous interpretation via the medium dance’, a couple of duos and the long-standing 1:22 tradition of good vibes added to the stock of singer-songwriters comprising the acts’ bulk.

A bloody good reason must be found if one intends not to find oneself there next Tuesday.