For those following along, one of the most regular of regular posters to the Weekly Guitar Thread has recently started performing. Like most of the things from him, this resulted in a story!
This story isn’t much like many of his stories – but it was interesting enough to share with you. I got his permission and I’m going to push this into the queue so that you can all maybe learn from it and experience life from the other side.
Things really do look different from the stage.
It started early.
It started with a question, sent via private message. This is where I became aware of it and this is, for our purposes, where the Many Misadventures of Crazy_Eyes begins to unfold. Don’t worry – it has a happy ending!
Note: I will be editing these for readability and to keep any seriously private details private.
The first PM:
Good morning mister doctor buddha, I have a bit of an issue here today and would like some advice if you have the time.
Christopher and I were supposed to play for a couple of hours at that bar this afternoon. The thing is, Chris is in jail. He’s not getting out today. They aren’t having any bond hearings on independence day. So I sent a text to the bar owner earlier letting them know that he’s in jail, and she says she wants me to come play without him. I don’t want to do that.
I don’t know what the fuck to do, what the fuck should I do? LoL. I dont sing, and I really wouldn’t think people would want to sit there and listen to me playing guitar by myself in a bar for hours. With no singing and no other accompaniment I really don’t think it would go over that well.
What a fucking conundrum, seeing as you have all this experience in this business, do you have any advice on how I should proceed here?
That’s quite a concern when your band only has two people! I’m pretty fond of math, so let’s just reduce this to saying half the band was now missing!
Well, you should sing as well as you can on a few songs.
“Well, folks… Chris is an idiot and he’s in jail. I’m sure he’d rather be here and they won’t let me bail him out. That means you’re stuck with just me. I don’t sign and play very well, but I’ll do my best.”
Do any of the people you two hang around with know the words? Can you get the drummer there?
Let’s see if we can get those numbers higher. At least that was my thinking at the time. I’m pretty fond of sound first principles and the problem was he had half a band.
There’s Verle, he could sing a few.
I’m not sure I could sing and play any song all the way through, I really never practice that, I have other people singing. If I am singing one of my own songs, I sing after the music is recorded. Calling Bob the drummer may be a possibility. Though it is a holiday, he might be busy.
I’m thinking you think I should go play somehow some way.
Most importantly, pay attention to that last sentence!
“The show must go on.”
So, call Bob the Drummer and Verle. If nothing else – turn it into fun and funny. “Yeah, so we really need Chris back. But, have a beer and listen to this next one!”
And we’d decided that, indeed, the show must go on.
Then we gabbed like old ladies a bit, still sort of staying on topic. Here’s a key phrase from one of the PMs that I sent him:
LOL The show must always go on. I’ve drive through blizzards, turned around to pick up a band mate who had crashed in the snow, and still made it on time. I’ve begged the use of someone else’s car because mine died. I’ve played solo or with one or two people missing.
It’s part of the job. I’ve never not shown up. I’ve shown up and been told don’t bother playing. But I always show. I have shown up late, but that was rare.
Therein lies the rule. You always show. Always. Yeah, even if there’s a death in the family. You show.
The venue owner knows this too. After all, she’d been advertising this pretty heavily. Here’s a comment from Crazy:
Verle and Bob still havent answered but the bar owner answered saying absolutely, you’re playing. This is going to be interesting.
Notice what the bar owner said?
To which I responded:
Yup… You’ll have interesting times. In fact, today might be the day you experience that anxiety I was telling you about. 😉
But, have confidence, do your best, and give them a show. Just let them know that you’re missing someone in the band but that you’re still going to make them dance, laugh, and sing. Hell, if it’s a good crowd, you might even invite someone from the crowd to come sing for you.
You can do this. By adaptable, dynamic, and play to the audience.
It’s at this point that I can actually offer advice and see what the full situation is going to be like.
A few more of my responses along this line:
Good luck and let me know how it worked out. Remember, engage the crowd.
I’d touch on that one more.
This is disjointed. Invite people to sing with you. Again, explain the situation. The first set, just play…
So, the first set alone – or with whoever plays with you. You might even find a guitarist in the bar. I’ve been in a random bar and ended up playing with the band, sometimes because I’m recognized and sometimes because of asking or something like that. Bring a couple of extra guitars, your tambourine, and set up your drum kit – at least three pieces of it. (Unless Bob’s going to come.) Bring the snare, bass, and high hat – maybe a tom or two but you can skip those and skip the crash.
Let people come up and play with you, sing with you, and generally TRY to not just sound okay BUT also engage the audience and have fun.
You got this.
Which, granted, isn’t the best written advice – but time was of the essence and he was down to half a band! I’m also taking out some of the unimportant text.
Some more stuff from me:
Yeah, you may want to get someone who’s able to fill-in sometimes. Things will happen, someone will get sick, cars will break down, etc… This is more a problem when it’s only a two piece band or a solo act.
And getting them to sing is probably one of your best options. You may have trouble getting them started – but you can (maybe) bring Verle and get him to come up and sing with you to get it started. People get more courage as they drink and after they see other people do it.
His plan of action is getting more formalized and his confidence is growing! One of his responses is the very typical @crazy_eyes response and is very much what we’d expect – and why we like ’em!
I really don’t give a shit if I make a complete fool of myself out there tonight, I don’t think I will, so I’m not worried about it. Even if I do I am sure I will find a nice sweet lady to make it all better later. So it’s all good. I’m looking forward to it.
See? That’s a crazy_eyes-ism.
If you can’t play your instruments, play the crowd!
Let’s see how he did.
Hey Buddha man. I pulled it off. I played till 8:40. There’s no clock so my set all went over an hour.
Which was punctuated by this next response – and this is included so that you can see why we all really like ’em and live vicariously through ’em. I’d asked him if the audience was willing to get involved.
Oh yeah. At times they were really involved. Other times they were just listening. And liking it. I actually played the Rush Hemispheres intro that goes through all the melodies. I bet that one isn’t played in any bars much these days. I fucking rocked the fuck out of it, and they ate it up. I even had people throwing money at me.
I’m heading out to a Independence Day party. I’ll fill in the details tomorrow if you’re around.
Of course I’ll be around! And, because I have his permission, you’ll also be around – so that you can hear how it all went.
Hey, I just got home. was invited to a party last night after the show and we partied like rock stars.
Warning, this is long!
So Verle decided he didn’t feel like singing yesterday. He was hungover and it was too hot for him. He was crabby.
Nevertheless, I went there by myself. I pulled in the parking lot and the owner of the bar comes out and says, that’s you in that Jaguar, look at you. And other people are looking at me and I get out and grab a couple of guitars and walk in the bar and they are like you’re with the band? We been waiting for you. I guess the bar owner promoted the shit out of it.
Actually Chris, Verle, and I were at her house Monday for a cookout and some beers by the campfire and we were jamming on acoustic guitars and she was live streaming us jamming by the campfire promoting the show, these guys will be at the bar the fourth of July. Check em out! She was really getting into promoting us. Which was pretty cool.
At the bar last night about a dozen or so people actually told me that they had watched the live stream. That totally surprised me, I figured nobody was watching. But I guess when you’re a hot blonde woman doing a live stream people tune in.
So I get all my stuff set up.
There’s no stage at this bar, its pretty small, maybe 40 bar stools. So I set up in front of some dart machines and some decorations. I asked her when they want me to start and they gave me the remote control for the house music, and said whenever you want. I had one beer, waited for some song to end and cut the music.
I grabbed my guitar and went up to the mike and introduced myself and explained that I was supposed to be here with my buddy Chris but he got himself in jail somehow yesterday and he’s not getting out today, so I am going to play some guitar for you. I’m not a singer, Chris usually does all the singing, and he’s not here.
So if any of you get the urge to sing by all means feel free, you are welcome to come up here and holler into the microphone. If any of you know how to play guitar I have a couple of extra guitars all hooked up and tuned up so grab a guitar and jam along.
Since I didn’t have any singer I started playing 316 by Van Halen, an instrumental. Nobody really reacted to that one.
I went right into another number, Gimme Three Steps. Nobody was singing, so I wailed the solo super awesomely, and tried to get the people going.
When I got done with that one someone yelled out sweet guitar playing man, which gave me confidence. So I played Over the Hills and Far Away and nobody sang.
Remember you told me to print out some lyrics? Well I did, and forgot them on the printer at home.
So after that song I threatened them, said if none of you are going to sing then I am going to have to start singing, and nobody wants that.
I played Tears in Heaven, and sang the words I could remember, and they were clapping when I was done. Then I play Stairway to Heaven, and that seemed to wake everybody up, there were calls of all right and oh yeah, when I stared it.
Then a woman comes up and asks if she can sing this one along with me. I told her to grab the mic and let her rip. She didn’t really know the words by heart, so she was asking me the words so I was singing them into her ear as she was singing into the mic. That was pretty fun.
The crowd loved it. Almost all of them joining in on the oohs and ahhs part. Suddenly the place was having fun.
So then I played a bunch more and the people were getting into it from then on. My first set went for about an hour and a half. I didn’t want to stop when they were getting into it. Though it didn’t seem that long to me.
I took a break and had a smoke and a beer and went and sat at the bar and the bartender lady comes up to me and asks me if I can play some song I never heard of, I told her no, she tells me that she’s the singing bartender here and she wants to sing with me, so we spent the next ten minutes going over all of the songs she knows the words to. Or the songs that I know. None of them ever matched up.
Oh well. I told her that I would learn a couple of those songs and she can sing them with me the next time I play. Shes looking forward to it.
So I start my second set, and I think I started with Hurt, Johnny Cash style, and nobody was singing, so I just sang it myself.
I never really practiced singing and playing at the same time, so some of it may have been shaky on the timing, but they ate it up, hung on every word. I found that if I watched my fretting hand while I was singing I could play and sing together better, so that’s what I did.
I played some ZZ Top songs, some Rush, I did that la villa strangiato one by rush, an eight minute instrumental, and a couple of people on the bar, a guy and a woman, who weren’t even together, were playing along with me on these blow up plastic fake guitars that say Budweiser on them. They were pretending to jam what I was playing on the toys. That made me just want to play even better. They were getting into it right long with me.
Sometime in the middle of this set a woman came up and asked if she could play guitar with me, she doesn’t know how to play, but she can play Iron Man on one string.
So I said hell yeah. Grab that guitar right there and put the strap over your shoulder, pointing at my flying V. She was like, really? I can play that guitar? Kind of looking awestruck. And she puts the guitar on and says let me show you what I know how to do, and she had the Iron Man main riff notes kind of down on the E string, I told her to turn up the volume knob and I will play it along with her, so we start playing that, after a few times through I start singing along with us playing that, Has he lost his mind, can he see or is he blind? You know it I’m sure.
Then the crowd joined in, they were all singing iron man along with us! When the different parts of the song came up I played on to the next section and she stopped playing and waited till the main riff came back around and she jumped back in at the right time, and we continued on through that song.
The place was getting really rowdy. I think she is a regular there and they all liked seeing her get to play and actually coming out with a song that everyone could sing along to.
I said to her, You’re a rock star! She was having one of those best day ever moments, you could just tell. Then she asks me to teach her to play the Seven Nation Army riff, she only wanted to do one string, sliding her hand back and forth.
So she was a fast learner and we were playing that together not 30 seconds later. When I switch from the low E string to the high E string and play it, and she stops and says fuck you, I can’t do that. Like she thought I was showing off.
I laughed and said I was just jamming along and then showed her how to play a blues bass line, E, A, & B. She got a rhythm going and I jammed out a blues solo while she was doing that, and the people loved it.
After that, she said the guitar is getting heavy on her shoulder and she wants to go sit back down and have a drink, so I asked everyone to give her a big hand and they all went nuts, hooting and hollering, clapping, just being loud. She told me she wants to buy a guitar now and really learn how to play. That was cool as hell.
After she sat back down I started into patience by GNR and the people loved that one. I sang it, and most of the crowd joined in on the chorus parts. When I got to the solo part, the crowd was singing along to the guitar notes of the solo note for note with me as I played it. I’m glad I knew that one.
Then that ending, I am doing the D & G strumming and singing the background part some more patience, and the crowd comes out with I been walking the streets at night, just trying to get it right. Three women were sharing the mic, everyone was dancing. That song was the best received of the evening.
When that one was done some guy comes up and throws five dollars at me. I played the Star Spangled Banner shortly after that and then he came up and threw another five dollars at me. The people were dancing with those blow up guitars for most of the rest of the time I was playing.
It turned out to be great!
So, what can you take away from that? What can you learn from that? What can you adapt from that to help in your own performance – be it on the stage or at home?
Well, he played the audience. He made the show. He still pumped energy into the situation even though he was at half capacity. He gave them new memories – and probably brought back old ones. He had fun and enabled the crowd to have fun. He still maintained his professionalism. He was dynamic and adapted to the changing situation. And more!
In other words, he did fine and was still able to put on a show. That’s why he’s going to have a pretty good chance at making it and being able to continue being a performing musician. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!