Lessons about performing, lesson nineteen: You should probably be soberish!

If you don’t know what I’m doing, then do try to catch up. Basically, I’m telling you all the rules you need to know – if you want to be a professional performing musician.

Granted, it’s a horrible idea – but who among you hasn’t thought about how awesome it must be to stand in front of a crowd of screaming fans – some of them showing you their tits. (Seriously, just lift up your shirt and show the ladies your own man-boobs and they’ll reciprocate. Not all tits are equal, some are much better than others. You have been warned.)

I kinda hate these intros, but someone has to write ’em – or my front page looks like ass. Also, ignore that strange cookie notice. I had to disable my usual one, ’cause I can’t figure out what I did to make that happen. (Weed was a factor.)

You know what? Enough of this damned intro! I’ve got stuff to say!

Rule #19: Don’t perform while wasted!

Today, it’s time we had a serious 1980s after-school special chat. Except we’re going to be realistic. See, before I wrote this missive, I took the time to imbibe in a little bit of herbal inspiration. (For some definition of little.)

What was I talking about?

See, that’s the problem! You can’t go on stage and forget the lyrics – but you will. Oh, my… Yes, yes you will.

See, kids… Some of these lessons come from things Ol’ TheBuddha did horribly wrong. As much as I might like to blame other people, there’s a few that are all my doing.

Granted, with sobriety, I can point a whole bunch of fingers (and just might), but I think I can handle taking the brunt of this one.

In one glorious episode, I climbed up on the stacks to sing “Wonderful Tonight.” That’s fantastic – except we were supposed to be playing something else and I wasn’t supposed to sing it.

In another episode, I was playing with a three piece and we were covering mostly stuff like Nirvana. Someone screamed out, “Play some Guns and Fucking Roses!” I think I stepped to my mic and declared that I’d do no such thing at about the same time the person who was actually supposed to be using the mic was telling them that we’d do Welcome to the Jungle.

I’d like you to go back and read that again. Yup… With a three piece band.

I was now angry and high as hell. Also, drunk…

We played the worst rendition of the song possible. At one point, I’m sitting on the floor and just more or less randomly keeping up with the song and then losing it again. I made that damned solo last like 20 minutes, too.

Then, there’s just the shit happens. You’re singing one song and you start thinking about the next one and *poof* there goes that brain cell. I miss words all the time. However, they’re small errors – and I’m a professional because I don’t stop, I just play through.

If it’s too bad to fix/play through, I’ve got a ready supply of wisecracks.

“Sorry, I just bought these fingers this morning. Gimme a minute to tune ’em up again.”

“I’m playing it. I’ll play it any damned way I want to.”

“Hold up. I think it’s time to change the plan a little. What I’m going to do is I’m going to ask y’all to sing it for me – ’cause I forgot the words again.”

Those are only immediately mentally available if you, you know, aren’t trashed. If you’re trashed, you’re just as likely to yell out, “Fuck you!” And then you’ll probably smash something. (I’ve seen a few epic meltdowns on stage. No, we’re not talking about those today.)

The reality is, you’re expected to give the audience what they came for. I’ve said this many times; you’re to master playing the audience as much as you master playing your instrument. And that’s not playing in a bad way – you’re there to entertain them. You’re there to play them. You’re there to make them emote – preferably not in a bad way.

There’s a whole lot of wiggle room and you’re an artist. You drink, you do drugs, or something. That’s probably true in 108% of the cases.

You know who says he doesn’t do drugs? Ian Anderson. You know, Jethro from Jethro Tull? (I’m so not sorry for that joke.) Bullshit! That guy’s sneaking off behind the amps and snorting mounts of cocaine. I’m convinced of it!

And it works. I’ve seen him in concert a few times and have watched him do concerts on BBC and whatnot. He makes it work.

Maybe your fans expect you to be shitfaced and scream about hating life? Maybe your message is that you’re a fuck-up and watch me fall off the stage? Either way, meet their needs.

There’s going to be some variations. We’re not saints. We’re usually poor, soulful, driven artistically, attracted to extremes, and passionate about things. In other words, we’re pretty much prime candidates for drug use/abuse.

Ninja Secret: If you’re getting sick when you stop using, seek help. If a band member is in that position, talk to them. Alternatively, keep your addiction mellow and just don’t stop. I’m pretty sure that’s why Keith Richards is still alive.

So, I’m sure as shit not the person to tell you, “Don’t do drugs, kids!” (I’ve been in that position before. Ah, the irony…) In fact, I don’t actually give a shit what you do for drugs.

What matters to me is that you do your fucking job. I’m looking straight at you, Axl Rose. Straight at you…

These people are treating you better than you deserve. The least you can do is have some pride and professionalism. Again, if you’re down at your local watering hole and you’re making just free drinks – go ahead and get smashed until you puke on the stage. However, if you’re playing to a bunch of people in a fancy restaurant as the house band, you should probably show up to work soberish!

I’d also like to take a moment to point out that there’s also one of those places where stage diving is horribly inappropriate. Don’t do that – even if it looks like fun. If you’re quitting, maybe consider it – but take extra care when deciding which bridges to burn. After all, you never know which one of them actually also owns the only recording studio in town.

You’re playing with people’s emotions. They have invested in you. Depending, some of them are very dedicated fans. Meet their fucking expectations – at least while performing. You owe them that level of sobriety.

Also, if you’re gonna play while tripping – wait until after you peak. No, nothing good comes from performing while peaking. Trust me. The odds of it being good are so statistically small that I’m going to call it impossible. No, your favorite set recorded by Hendrix wasn’t actually good. A few good moments do not make quality. However, his audience expected him to be wasted.

Besides, it’s really hard to remember the words when you’re tripping.

Excess is bad. I personally often fortify with a couple of stiff drinks and a few joints. I then wait a few hours (still smoking a bit of pot). This makes me not want to drink more when offered, including not wanting to drink more after the show. I might do a few other things along my path, but never (these days, for these crowds) more than will impair my ability to meet the expectations of the paying customers.

What? You didn’t think  you worked for yourself, did you? Sheesh…

You read this! You lunatics! Thanks. I am grateful that you do. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

Note: This is post on Saturday. I may have time to share it around before I go. If not, you should submit it! If you don’t, I’ll get it when I get it. I have a show on Saturday.

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