Sunday, September 16, 2007

The green-eyed monster...

...would be me.

And all because I happen to know -- and be close to -- people who have a major overdose of talent.

My friend R. called me early this afternoon. He just wanted to talk, the usual stuff we indulge in: working out exchanges of music we've collected, women, performers, arrangements, women, influences and general gossip about our somewhat minuscule niche. And women. I can do that for hours, and so can he. A good debate about certain kinds of esoteric musical and technical knowledge can burn up an afternoon.

But when he started describing an instrument he tried out, it occurred to me he had been hired to play a concert on it. So I asked, "dude, when's your program?"

"Oh, in about 10 minutes."

I could have strangled him.

It has been my fate to shepherd performers through the hours and minutes leading up to shows several times, and it is the equivalent of escorting a prisoner to the death chamber. They can be jittery, needy, rude, alternating between a need for solitude and an equally strong desire for someone to make them forget they are about to have the spotlight on them.

When I performed publicly -- and this goes back to the days when I was second trumpet player in my high school band -- I verged on nausea before the curtain went up. No matter how adept you are, how prepared, the Fear is there, waiting.

Not for R., Jim.

If someone tried to talk to me 10 minutes before a show, no telling how I'd react. I might respond with a string of obscenities, tears or simply walk away.

I have known major-league pros who should have been locked in a rubber room before performing. One, whose name all y'all would recognize, tended to shake like a leaf, even though he always had audiences in the palm of his hand.

Conversely, I've met some who were cucumber-cool. I once spent some backstage time with one of the greatest trumpet players ever. We talked -- mostly him asking me about my future plans for playing the horn* -- and then, as the lights went down, he said "yeah, gotta go play now," and walked on stage.

Another was very much an unknown quantity before each show. I chauffeured him to a concert and he was Mr Talkative the whole way, until seconds before showtime. I know there were other occasions when he had to find a certain amount of solace in adult beverages before playing a note.

In fact, the last thing R. said to me before hanging up was "think I'll go have a couple of shots before the concert."

I said, "careful, remember ------ ------," to which he replied "I'm not him."

This is true. R. is better.

As for me: I know if I ever play in public again -- unlikely, but one never knows, do one? -- I'll still need one or more of those little bags the airlines put in seat pouches. I will live in abject fear of someone yelling "where's the hook?"

Can't wait to hear the CD of R.'s show, which he has promised to send along. I know he'll have the audience begging for more.

Me, jealous? You bet!

* In the end, I packed my horn in its case and never picked it up again after my 16th year.


joan said...

Talking to YOU was probaby what he chose to do to relax before his performance.

Justfly said...

I can always hook you up with some of those airline bags :)

Nice story for my morning read :)

John said...

I'd love to be good enough to be playing some serious venues, but the nervous part I don't think would get to me much. It used to some but doesn't affect me any more. I'm more nervous about what to expect from band mates. It would be cool to have really high paying gigs, and be high quality enough to be nervous and nauseous before a performance. As it is, I'll leave it to others. Maybe you never should have quit.