I’ve been starting to perform (and thus practise) playing guitar in public more and more, going as far as to form a band and do a couple of open mics round York. I have kept this relatively quiet on my poetry pages because I see them as different beasts.
That is, until I start working on Whatever Happened To Vandal Raptor which will be glorious punk moshpit of styles.
But the first time I played guitar live, I was totally out of my comfort zone and failed miserably to do anything other than bash chords and forget all my words, other than thin rant.
Comfort zones are nice blankets we sometimes throw off, even without realising we’re the ones casting them aside. Sometimes, it’s cold outside and we freeze. So we stay in bed until 11am.
On Saturday I performed what could be the best poetry set ever to a very warm and welcoming leftie crowd at the Maze in Nottingham, my first ever gig in the city. This may sound arrogant, but I hit all the right notes (even in the right order). The necessary amount of banter and aside jokes, the right dollop politics and the right energy for the space. This was part of a mate’s birthday who has been hugely involved in We Shall Overcome, and it was a much needed (albeit privileged bubble) boost to confidence in darkening times.
On Sunday, I went down to the open mic night and snapped a string after my second song, which isn’t usual and not an alarming problem. Except I was leaving my new song last, and was annoyed I didn’t get chance to perform. I took off my guitar, and said I’d do it a’capella. But my head said: “What’s the point? You wanted to practise it as a song. Plus, you can’t sing so without guitar it will sound awful.” My mate suggested “Do a poem” but my head said: “What’s the point? You wanted to perform the new song.” So, I dashed off stage. Some people get nervous and exit the stage, and I do not mean to demean anybody else. But in my eyes, for me to say I’d do something on stage, and then awkwardly leave a haunting silence, was true cowardice. I’ve ducked out of lots of things in my life. As I write this, I didn’t have the courage to go into a pub to find a rehearsal room to jam with some mates, so walked home alone. But the stage has always been a comfort zone, bizarre as that is, a space I can control. But I left it hollow.
And of course, as soon as I stepped offstage my head went: “Actually, the song could have worked as a poem. You idiot.”
Because my now ancient poem True Friends (which I shared recently because it was Friend Day) started out as a song, some 7 years ago.
As it happens, my friends are great and I love them. Thanks folks! I ended up at Dusk anyway and did my song. So everything worked out alright. The End.
Comfort zones are, like limitations, something we each create from the conditions presented to us. Some of the most anxious and nervous people I know are incredible performers. I step outside my comfort zone to make music, and I hope that shows in the immediacy of the performance. For me, compereing and poetrying is very much a second nature, a Henry I can be comfortable with and enjoy. Clearly these two things moshing together is still untapped territory. A territorial zone I will thoroughly enjoy skanking all over when I begin work on Whatever Happened To Vandal Raptor?