In my elementary school's rendition of the Pied Piper of Hamlin I played the part of cat #3. I delivered my single line surprisingly late to an audience cramped into plastic chairs designed for those four feet and under.
On Monday, close to 20 years later, I made my triumphant return to the stage.
My family isn't big with the whole performing arts thing. My dad can tell a good story, my mom can sing or hum the same line of a song for the majority of an afternoon, and once my brother and I were complemented on our voices when we were trying to sing in an obnoxiously low baritone at church.
That said, when we entered the bar, and the slightly dilapidated black stage loomed in front of me, I was both exhilarated and intimidated. I found a place in the back, a can of PBR in my hand, and watched the likes of Ron Jovi masterfully sing "Wanted Dead or Alive" and a guy named Kurt perform "On a Plain."
The performers knew what they were doing. They had confident, sensible mannerisms and were possibly in local bands. Nobody can rock like David Cross, but most of them could have held their own on American Idol.
I was with a group of four, and when one of the girls pulled me along to go look at the song list, I played along. When she flipped through the book once and submitted a song, I started to get nervous. Sure, I was a little nervous for her, but more importantly I was nervous because this meant soon enough I would be on stage as well.
The crowd was supportive. It couldn't have hurt that she was a cute blond with knee high black boots on, but as she worked her way toward the chorus of "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley, it didn't sound that bad.
I was confused by her reaction when the song was over. She wasn't excited or relieved, she simply walked over to me and told me that I had to sing next. I already knew this. I'm not the kind of guy that is one-upped without resistance. But I let her feel like she was convincing me.
Like my mom, I only know the chorus of most songs. Flipping through the pages, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, and Clash all stuck out. I asked the girl collecting names to recommend something easy, and she pointed to "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
It's a popular song, but it's the kind of song that I don't know why I know it. I don't listen to rock on the radio and I don't have the Clash cd or any of their mp3's. This fact worried me, but other that general hilarity, I don't know why this woman I'd met a minute before would steer me in the wrong direction.
I went with it, and she told me that I had 15 minutes. I went to get a shot of Tequila and headed for a bench near the stage. I tried to repeat the lines in my head, but didn't get past the title.
I can't tell you much about the next ten minutes or so. Like any good performer I was getting in the zone.
Before I knew it, I was called to the stage. I had planned on saying “any fan involvement would be appreciated” before I started, but it didn’t feel right and I didn’t. I kind of have a gift. I would rate my current stage presence a 3, but my potential is 10.
As the song started I started to rock from side to side, emphasizing the hips. It was a good feeling to be up on stage with a band, and at that moment, at least symbolically, I was the leader.
With the familiar guitar chords being played to my right, I glanced up at the monitor. My glance turned into a stare, as I waited for the first word to change colors or something. They never did, and before I knew it the bassist was singing, "Darling you've got to let me know."
After that, I managed to catch on. The great thing about Clash, and this song inparticular, is that the lines are pretty well spaced out. My confidence grew with each line. Eventually I got my stage feet under me and incorporated a overdramatic indie quick bounce that was probably all the rage five years ago.
Halfway through the song another guy came on stage. I felt like I was doing pretty well, so I kind of nodded my head at him as if I knew what he was up to. Next thing I know, he's yelling inaudible phrases between my lines. The crowd seemed to like it, so I sent off as many embracing vibes as I could muster.
At the time I felt like we were really creating something special. Like there was some type of connection we had, and we were making something new and fresh. Walking off the stage, to a pretty good cheer from the crowd, I imagined me and this new guy taking the music scene by storm. I found out later that he was just singing the other part of the song.
It was an unforgettable night. I convinced my other friend to sing, and after a rousing version of "Don't Stop Believing," we called it a night. Luckily they were selling DVD's of the night's performances.
I bought one, and it is being mailed to me at this moment. If I can figure out how to rip it onto the computer, It will be on this blog. Check back soon ...
4 months ago