I have over this holiday period been busy, and while I'm now but three days back at the zoo, I am of course a lot busier - but some activities haven't changed.
To what am I referring, you don't ask? Well, I have another work-related gig coming up. A musical one. To readers who know me probably also know that I had one of these last year, some fifteen years since I last played some form of live gig (my own wedding, in what would turn out to be the last ever time me and my old bandmates would ever be in a room together, let along playing impromptu.) The circumstances around this sudden return to treading pedals and dodging guitar leads are quite hum-drum; suffice it to say I was lured into a gathering of sales staff who shared a middle-aged musical itch and some degree of talent, and with a month or so's home practice and one kind of boozy actual rehearsal, once we were in the same town the day beforehand, we became the surprise entertainment for a company get-together in front of our working peers and managers. No pressure, then.
The exercise was as fruitful and inspiring as it was sphincter-tighteningly anxious. If I thought playing my own songs in front of friends and family with two drunk ex-bandmates might have been a challenge (and the wedding video offers little clue to the contrary), then a full set of varying covers and standards in front of colleagues was something else. Some return experiences in life can be wonderful - like stepping back into a comfy pair of slippers. This was (almost literally) like attempting to squeeze one's self into a pair of lycra pants from two decades before. I was not at my best on the night, and crucially aware that I stood among musicians much more talented and practiced than I - even in the simple art of looking like one knew what one was doing.
But I won't lie; it was a very exciting experience, and it changed me for the better. I'm a better player for the limited practice time (YouTube is a godsend!), I have (pauses to grind teeth) a new respect for cover musicians that I never had to this point, because playing and muffing one's own works is a pretty fault-free form of creative expression - if you suck, then your songs suck and that's that. But sucking at playing a song everybody knows, and that somebody out there is almost certainly bound to be able to better you on, is quite another thing. So the discipline is a new thing- as is the joy of getting it right. It's a gamble, but a calculated one. And in one week's time I'm about to do it all over again at a different zoo.