, Deb and I are the featured act at Mic Club and two weeks later at Rapture Lounge on the 27th
. How these gigs came to be feels like the beginning of a larger shift in my musical career. Join me below the fold for some memories and musings.
On Monday March 3rd, I decided to accept a position at a new company and submit my two week notice. Once I had resolved to leave, I realized that I’ve never really invited my co-workers to come out and see any of my shows. On some level, I’ve always had trouble bridging my occupational and artistic worlds. I sometimes have a tendency to allow my distaste for the industry as a whole (advertising) extend to the people I work with, and that’s really not fair to most of them.
So as a last minute attempt to correct this mistake, I decided to contact my friend and the host of Mic Club
, Sacha Chavez and ask if he had any feature slots available in the next 2 weeks. Before I could act on that decision, or even formally submit my resignation, I was offered the Rapture gig out of nowhere by another host and close friend, Pedro Gonzales. When I got in touch with Sacha, he told me that Thursday the 13th was available. I decided to take them both, and invite all of my soon-to-be former co-workers to Lucky Jack’s, and my new co-workers to the Rapture show.
It wasn’t until a couple of days ago that the parallels of these bookings in my early music career hit me. Mic Club was the very first spot that I ever played a feature set in October 2009, and a week after that I played my second at Pedro’s other venue Waltz Astoria
. When I was offered those gigs, I was terrified. I knew that most of the musicians who came through that room were miles above me musically. I also knew that I wanted to climb to their level, and the only way to do that is to play through the fear and try to offset my lack of technical ability with an abundance of passion.
Feeling nostalgic, I decided to go back and watch some of the footage from those performances. I won’t say that I sucked, but… no, I will say I sucked. I’m clearly straining through the chord changes, my strumming is rigid, my vocal phrasing is awkward, and there is a timidity to my performance in general that makes me want to shake and slap myself like that hysterical lady on Airplane
. Taking in the performances on their own, it’s baffling to me that I was invited to feature at those gigs at all. I will always be thankful to Pedro and Sacha (and really everyone who encouraged me to keep playing early on) for seeing something more than what I was actually able to produce on stage.
The thing is, I knew that I sucked back then—that was the plan. I had adopted the mantra painted on the wall of the old PIT theater I used to perform standup and improv in: “Follow the Fear.” More than that, I decided apply the same model of success that’s worked for my career as an interactive designer & developer: learn by doing, surround yourself with the most talented people you can find, and pay attention. That is exactly what open mics offer anyone looking to follow a similar path.
In the five years since I first stepped out on the stage with a guitar and started telling people to call me “BZ” (a nickname bestowed by my best friend in blues, Charley Crockett), I followed followed the fear to deeper levels as it dissipated from the open mic stages and cozier gigs. I spent as much time as I could last summer performing on the vast underground stage that is the NYC Subway. I came to regard busking as a getting paid by strangers to rehearse, but I always respected the veterans who grind it out on the platform for a living and always offered up my spot. (check out the short film BUSK
for a decent glimpse into that world) I’m not nervous about gigging anymore, I’m thrilled. I’m ready. I know I’m the best musician I’ve ever been, but I’m also really looking forward to thinking that I sucked right now in 2019.