Notes from the "Road" (Part 1)

Greetings from the Linden Tree Spring Micro-Tour! I'm six stops down, ten to go, and with this break in the action today I'd like to reflect on how things have gone so far.

The parameters first, for those who are scratching their heads, muttering, "Micro-tour?" I'm playing 16 open stages in a month, the dates scheduled around my three-night-a-week work schedule. It's a way of performing to as many people as possible in a concentrated time frame, with the bonus of eating in my own home and sleeping in my own bed. To further add to the intrigue, each gig features a fresh batch of songs: there are no repeats. And if that's not enough, at every show I debut a new song—either an original or a cover.

Here are the raw stats to this point, for those who like to geek out over that sort of thing:

  • Shows played: 6
  • Unique venues: 5
  • Songs played: 15 (7 originals, 8 covers)
  • Songs repeated: 0
  • Songs debuted: 6

The micro-tour is an experiment. Among other things, I wanted to find out if it would lessen my stage fright. The answer is a qualified yes. From talking to other musicians and reading my heroes' biographies, I've come to see that stage fright is rarely if ever banished. The best I seem to be able to do is make peace with it, feeling the fear and doing it anyway rather than letting it paralyze me. But even with my small sample size, I'm finding that repeated, regular gigging reduces its intensity a bit. Low-pressure shows for small audiences, which all these are, certainly help.

Another burning question: do I actually like performing? It's no secret that the studio is my preferred habitat, and no amount of gigging will change that. Again, I give a qualified yes. (Apologies for waffling; I'm a Libra. I'm wired that way.) Hearing that applause—sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes tepid, always there—once the final note rings out is gratifying. I'm also in awe of the power musicians, especially singer-songwriters, carry: our words and music can move people, often in ways we don't expect. It's a thrill to experience that in real time.

On the flip side, the unpredictability of live performance makes it challenging and arduous. There are too many wildcards. To an extrovert, I'd imagine that's exciting; for an introvert like me, it's overwhelming. The smallest thing can throw me off completely, not to mention the major disasters. Break a string? Guitar strap falls off? Music flies off music stand? Some loony staggers onstage and starts raving? That third verse has deserted you? Doesn't matter. You have to recover and get through it somehow. If I mess up in the studio, I can go back and fix it. Onstage, there's no "stop" button till it's over, and forget about rewind, baby. You're trapped in the moment, be it good, bad or ugly. That said, there's a palpable sense of relief (and dare I say victory) once it's over. Whatever I had to face, I made it through. Regardless of the outcome of that particular night's 10,000 variables, I almost never regret playing a gig.

It's telling that I can only evaluate my shows after the fact, from a recording. While I'm performing, there's so much going on internally that it's near sensory overload. I've learned that my internal experience in the moment isn't an accurate gauge of how I'm going over or how well I'm playing. I'm just trying to get through it as it races by.

I also embarked on the micro-tour to see whether it would feel like a real tour. So far at least, I'd say no, not really. That singular focus characteristic of touring is absent. I'm still working part-time, shopping, taking out the garbage, feeding the cat, and so on. The constant gigging means I have less time for the tasks of daily life, but it doesn't exempt me from them. And even though I've not played most of these venues before, the micro-tour is, with one exception, set entirely in my home city. As such, it lacks the element of novelty: new roads, new faces, new places, truck-stop food, gruelling travel, strange hotel rooms, unfamiliar beds. This isn't necessarily a bad thing! But even I could use a bit more adventure and a bit less routine. Next time I'll build in a few more out-of-town gigs and dinners out.

So, that's the broad overview, but please stay tuned—in my next post I'll share with you some of what I've experienced along the way, along with thoughts on my performances. If you'd like to follow along, either in person or vicariously, all the dates are on my shows page.

1 comment

  • Vince

    Vince Mars

    Go Vern Go!!

    Go Vern Go!!

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Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
All pages and contents © 2017-2018 Vern Nicholson.