Friday, May 29, 2009

the Hunger... (part 1)

The freneticism is long over. I can finally sit for a few minutes and begin to unravel my thoughts in a more organized fashion. But first - the recap

The trip up to Rochester was remarkable only in it's length and lack of... remarkability. I took the 10pm chinatown bus up to NYC from Cherry Hill where I hopped on to Greyhound's 12:45am NYC->Toronto "express" line. I don't remember much of my thoughts beyond that point. I don't even know if I had many - surprising against my normal bouts of rumination and pre-show jitters.

All I recall is how uncomfortable it was and how futile my attempt at sleep was turning out to be.

Oh the bus was actually a fairly nice and new one - I'd say built in the last two or three years. I was rather impressed. It even had free wifi which unfortunately never seemed to have gotten turned on. But the seats... or maybe the previous 2 hours... and my lower back was a mess in no time.

Note to self: for future trips, take a pillow.

Pulled into Rochester around 7:30am or so and my old pal Chris Hennelly (AKA Felonius Monk) came with his roommate to pick me up at the station. They took me back to their place where Chris and I caught up from the 4 or so years of not having seen each other.

It's amazing what can happen, how time can pass so quickly and with so little notice. Still he was one of the two main reasons I asked Freddy for the gig. And seeing that wide, beaming grin and hearing that full-chested laugh was a treasure worth so much more than the discomfort I put myself through.

For lunch I met up with reason number two for the trip - seeing Steve. Steve and I met on my one prior visit to Rochester. It was a night I very VERY vividly remember. Trite as it may sound while the actual time we spent together may be just a blink in my 33 years it definitely made a much larger impression.

For both of us.

He greeted me in Chris' driveway with a huge goofy grin, a tight embrace and a _very_ deep kiss. Something out of a silly romantic movie, I'm sure. I was caught QUITE off guard - so much so that I'm sure I was actually blushing. We went and caught a quick bite on his lunch break and just kinda talked about everything - theater, music, IT, Philly, Rochester.

Then it was back to Chris' for a nap and some pre-show warm-up. Chris even pointed out my improvement. "I've never heard you sing for me before," he told me.

I had to think about it and realized he was so blindingly right. The few times he may have heard me sing were open mics where I was stumbling through it - rushing just to get it over and never really _enjoying_ it. And now here I was singing songs and *sharing* my art with him.

I've made some significant progress. At that moment I could tell by someone _else_'s reactions just how much I'd grown. I could look back at where I was then, where my headspace often was, and measure how far I've come - some of that in the past few months.

After that I felt much more relaxed and ready. I started the process of planning the set in my head - trying to identify the key songs I wanted to hit, the arc of my tunes... Just sorta get my game plan going. I still wasn't sure exactly how long I'd be on stage but I knew that answer would come soon.

Around 5-ish I got over to the coffee shop - Equal Grounds. An absolutely adorable spot it was a combination coffee shop, knick-knacks mom 'n pop store, and gay mecca.

Chris and I kibitzed some more and fraternized with some of the other locals. Freddy and Kendal were running late of course. At some point Steve arrived and Chris left and then finally Freddy and Kendal made their appearance. We did a bit of pre pre-show planning and then Steve and I ran off for some completely _non_ musical catching up.

*wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*

Then it was back to Equal Grounds to get the show going. I got there late enough that the stage was set-up and yet early enough to relax and get in performing head-space. Of course it was about that time that Freddy informed me the shop doesn't have an ASCAP license therefore no covers allowed.


No, it wasn't the death of my set, of course. But one of my "center" tunes - You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk - was obviously out of the picture. I did some quick recalibrating and decided to see how things just flowed.

For a change, we actually started a show EARLY. It was about 7:30 and the cafe was bustling. Apparently it was their 3rd anniversary party. Kendal wanted to get it going since it was a weeknight. So I took to the stage and got the night rolling.

Of my actual performance I ... don't really recall everything. I have some distinct images stuck in my brain and I can kinda re-live things. But, as is usually the case, there's a strange detachment. It's like someone takes over my body and I'm just sort of along for the ride.

For one thing we had no monitors. I relied mostly on the small size of the room to hear how I was doing. It's a tad terrifying with a heavy dose of ... almost vertigo. So much going on in the brain - remember lyrics, try and speak slowly, smile, engage the audience, enjoy yourself, relax - all whilst sending every bit of energy out into this strange audio and emotional... not really a void so much as a null point, I guess.

In the end I think I did okay. The only mistake I really remember was launching into the wrong verse on "So Glad..." With a couple quick quips and a big smile I stopped and restarted the song. Maybe not the best thing to do. But I knew that, were I to try and go on, the train wreck would have been MUCH worse.

I didn't really feel _loved_ by the audience. But I didn't feel hated either. Indifference perhaps more than anything. But I knew that was being offset by the friends I *did* have in the room.

I guess that's the big thing to walk away with - that it didn't feel like a train wreck. Oh, I want to do better and I'm always frustrated when I do NOT live up to my expectations. But... at least I'm not living down to my fears.

And I haven't given up. I'm still pushing myself forward. Still working to better myself and see if I can reach that amazing thing I for some reason still think I am.

Afterwards Freddy paid me one of the best compliments. "You really owned the stage tonight, Tosh. I'm proud of you." Indeed, of all my musical associates, I think he's in the best position to critique me. He's seen me through Hanna's and Outmusic, Landshark and a number of other... adventures.

Oh I wish I'd blown him away. Hell, I wish I'd blown everyone away. But... well I didn't scare them away. And that's something.

The night ended as the handful of us - Kendal, Freddy, Steve, Jeff and I - all converged on a diner for some late-night, post euphoric stomach appeasing. The stress was gone, the appetite returned, and the plates full.

All too soon Steve dropped me off back at the bus station. And, with a some more regretful departing, I found myself once again Philadelphia bound.