THEY WERE AMAZING.
Just got back from one of those divine instances of social, aural and mental torture that makes hanging out with people an exercise in maintaining sanity.
Obviously, I’m talking about karaoke.
A friend of mine and fellow corporate whore runs the booth down at Hooligan’s on Thursdays, and I’ve found myself there a handful of times; my old friend Sarah was a regular, and another friend just turned 21 today and decided to try her hand at it. I, being unable to learn, agreed to accompany the party, since why not? I rarely go out … though when I do, it’s back to this pit of agony, time and time again because I never fucking learn.
See, here’s the thing: singing is that one special talent of mine. It is my secret love affair, and the one thing about myself that I am particularly proud of. Sure, I’m fat; sure, I’m poor, but fuck you I can keep up with some of the most diverse voices and styles in music, and I have since I was a little kid. I was the kid who attended and pulled top scores in state choral events, and who led the tenor and alto sections in choir because the teacher only wanted to work with the soprano (it was a tiny school, mind you), who was wooed by the director of one of the best show choirs in the state (unsuccessfully, since the fam was poor as hell, we were about fifteen miles from the nearest bus stop for that district, and we couldn’t have afforded the cross-country trips anyway). Yeah, that sounds like I’m bragging because holy shit yeah I am, but seriously — that has always been my one thing. No, I’m not saying I’m the next Aretha, but I could have held my ground against those Idol kids before I decided performing sucked and smoking was awesome.
The flip-side of all of this is that performance is not my thing. I have super-low self-esteem, and I panic hard under anything more than cursory scrutiny. Have since I was a kid, and mom and clergy insisted I perform solo at the Christmas pageants every freaking year. Throat-closing, heart-pounding, makes-deer-in-the-headlights-look-completely-zen panic. I keep my shitty job because I blank out at interviews and start stuttering like a moron, despite being a pretty decent talker. Even sudden large-scale attention from people I know and am comfortable with is enough to wipe my mind completely clean of everything. It was bad when I was in school, but ten years after that and I’m absolutely hopeless. Seriously — when I was still a manager, a visiting higher-up came by, and I spent a full minute gaping like a fish before I was able to give him my name, because I had forgotten it. Group performances weren’t bad because I could pretend that everyone was paying attention to the others, but solos left me a nervous wreck for days before and after; I was heavy on the vibrato from the shaking, but that was fine for most choral pieces anyway so it was never that big an issue.
These days, I sneak singing like most people sneak porn. My days off, the SO leaves, and as soon as I hear that engine start it’s a beeline for the winamp and whatever I feel like singing along with at the top of my lungs while I do housework/play spider solitaire/whatever. I’ve only been caught once, and I was so mortified I couldn’t do it again for almost a month. I’d been dating the guy for five years at this point, so it certainly isn’t a matter of not being comfortable around him.
Love to sing, hate to perform. Do you see my dilemma?
And yet, I’m egotistical enough in this one stupid thing I take so seriously to want to be acknowledged for it by friends and strangers both. I tell myself I don’t care what they think either way, but it’s obviously bullshit. Of course I fucking do. This is my only time in my boring, mundane life to shine, dammit.
So every time I get invited to karaoke, there’s a painful process involved. Every. Single. Time. There’s a few songs that I love in the books (really, only a few I know that well at all). I spend a few hours practicing until I have the cues and cadence down perfectly. I know intimately every stretch of vibrato, where to take my breaths and which chorus changes structure to keep things fresh. I am going to blow away my friends and everyone there, because I should have been a goddamn pro!* I imagine everyone has this feeling when they step up to the plate.
So we hit the venue, and of course it’s too bright/too crowded/too everything that makes me uncomfortable far beyond the help of a few well-timed girl drinks. Everyone else is laid back, like they have no troubles in the world. I am shaking a little, because nerves are a bitch. People are wailing on the mic like they’re fucking Celine Dion, but what comes out is closer to Wing, and they don’t even care a little bit despite sucking harder than anything has ever sucked in the history of sucking. I am ready to pee a little because my guts have knotted themselves around my stomach. Friends grab the book, pick out goofy songs, don’t care at all. I start thinking holy shit, I am taking this and myself way too seriously. Try to loosen up a bit, decide that this isn’t my night and I’ll try it next time. Secretly, though, I want to get up there and sing my heart out and be amazing like I know I am! Consider maybe later, when it clears out a bit. Less audience, sure, but less pressure. Right?
Passively-aggressively attempt to find friend who knows one of my songs, so I can attempt the chicken-y way. Of course, the only stuff in there I really want to sing is 90′s girl rock and the Fugees, and who goes to a bar to hear that maudlin crap? Will I still be acknowledged and loved if no one likes the song? Why don’t these guys have the music I listen to? Give me some Florence and the Machine at least, come on.
So fine, let’s have some Fiona Apple; plenty of range, a moderate amount of technical stuff, but not difficult by any stretch of the imagination. No longer remembered so low chance of being obnoxious. Also, I can do this in my sleep. I could do it backwards. Friend says she knows this one! Perfect!
Listen to some other people; some good, some bad, holy crap I hear that stupid fucking American Pie song every goddamn time we come in here and I kinda wish I still smoked because a few drags before singing was awesome for opening up my chest (but no — trying for babies, so not even one teeny tiny drag, and no booze either, dammit). And then, finally, our turn. Friend is excited! MC friend hands me the mic …
Oh, cocks. What have I gotten myself into? Heft that fucker in the air, remember that I buckle under attention like a sofa under yo mamma, and that I’m still a fat girl who is horrifically insecure in every way, and that I’ve never believed anyone who has ever congratulated me on doing anything well anyway and what the hell do I think I’m trying to prove anyway? I can outdo a handful of old drunk guys imitating Neil Diamond? That when my friends look at me, they can think ‘yeah, she’s not the hottest thing on the block, but she sure can belt one out’? Really?
Throat closes. Lungs seize. Dizziness ensues. Put down the water glass, because the shaking is bad enough to slosh it all over the place like some sort of super-parkinson’s nightmare. What if I really actually suck, and everything I thought I knew about myself and my one cherished talent was a cruel joke? What if I am a complete failure at life?
What’s that? Friend doesn’t know song as well as she thought she did and just kind of leaves off for most of it? Oh god, oh god, oh god, what the fuck do we do now? Vibrato that sounds like a goat’s mating call; cracking voice, moments of holy shit no matter what I try I cannot make a sound come out of my stupidly open mouth.
Love is over. Love is over and dead and burned and buried and this one thing I secretly adore has destroyed what little shreds of confidence I have because I am a gigantic wuss and I have no idea how to get rid of this crippling anxiety but I’d really love to, because dammit, this is unfair. I feel like I have to regain my honor, which is stupid but true. And thus, the next perfect opportunity will present itself when spotlight-loving friend decides it’s time to go to karaoke again. And I will agree.
And thus, the entire disgusting process will begin again.
So yeah. What started out as kind of a funny ‘oh, silly me’ sort of tale got kind of long and personal-ish, and I’m sorry about that, but I can’t help but wonder if other people feel that way?
Speaking (belatedly) of silliness and false encouragement, I am entirely amused by the plethora of vague, encouraging spam comments being dumped on this blog. Seriously, some of these are absolutely amazing.
*Yeah, I am being pretty much sarcastic. Mostly. Though I totally wanted to be Reba McIntyre (sp?) when I was a young’n. And when country music wasn’t complete ass.
(sort of a mash between my post at the shearwater board and my lj, sorry)
As any of my friends and coworkers know, I’ve been super-excited about the prospect of getting to see my favorite band live, since the tour dates came out. Seriously, first day ticket purchases and random moments of ‘eeeee’ for the last two months or so, on top of desperate shift changes and craftily manipulating the parts of the schedule I control so I could bring along my good friend and recent Shearwater convert, Sarah. I would have dragged along more, but my tiny CRX is only a two-seater, and there’s only so long you can keep someone in the hatch and eighty-some miles is just too long. (Next time, guys, I’m chartering a bus.) Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who is mostly unfamiliar despite my efforts) already lives in Phoenix, and she has a slightly bigger pick-up, so we made a cozy party of three.
Sarah and I were a little late getting out of the house and down to Phoenix — I kept forgetting things, or wanting to make sure I had something, and even once we were on the road I had to turn back because in the rush I’d forgotten my purse full of, um, everything. So. Yeah, on the road, rolled into the grandparents’ house about 5 — which was okay, timewise, since the show didn’t start until 8. Matt and Linh took us to Pei Wei, which is kind of um … asian fast food for grownups, masquerading as a restaurant? I don’t know, but I ordered the thai coconut curry (because that’s a known favorite) and a bowl of thai wonton soup. The girl asked me how many cups I wanted, and I was like … er, 1? Thought it was a weird question and didn’t think anything more of it, even with the girl’s weird look.
I UNDERSTAND NOW. The bowl had like … six cups worth of soup in it. I had no idea, derp. Fortunately, three other people with me made it a bit easier to cope with. The curry was … okay, but I’ve had way better at this tiny thai place on Sheldon by Albertson’s.
We were up by Arrowhead, and we had to get to East Indian School, and I was starting to freak a bit since Google Maps was telling me it would take an hour to get there from Becker, which we were on the other side of. Fortunately it’s only that I was retarded and didn’t put the 1019 bit in so it was trying to send me to the start of the road or something.
None of us were terribly familiar with Phoenix (I live up north in the Prescott area, and have been there all of maybe four times because my tiny town self can’t really handle cities that well), but The Rhythm Room was fairly easy to find — it was about seven thirty, and there were a dozen or so cars; I had a mild panic attack that we had missed the start because the door was open and I could see them running through Hidden Lakes and I just have awful luck like that. But no! In fact, the show didn’t get started until much later. We had great seats, and the place filled up quite nicely — a small venue, sure, but the crowd was wonderful.
The Hospital Ships were great, though the sound was a little off; most of the time you could hardly hear the singers over the music. I really want a copy of Crazy Girls; it was definitely my favorite song on the set and I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t on the CD I picked up. Definitely a band I’ll be keeping an eye on, though. Both my charges were a little stunned that Thor was drumming and playing the clarinet at the same time, but … well, they kind of went blindsided into the evening, so I couldn’t pick on them too much.
Then came Wye Oak, and all three of us realized who we want to be when we grow up. I had chills all through the set, though again it seemed like the music overpowered the vocals (which broke my heart a bit, both because Jenn has a fucking amazing voice, and because I was afraid this was going to be an ongoing problem into the Shearwater set.) — the energy was intense, both Jenn wailing on her guitar and Andy being pretty much awesome and playing both drums and keyboard and this strange bagpipe-sounding thing I admit I first thought was a beer dispenser. But yes. YES. I would definitely go see these guys again, whether they were headlining or opening for someone else. When SW tours again, I honestly hope they can keep them.
Luckily, Shearwater had no such problems between vocals and music. I had brought a tiny flip video cam to catch the performance, and we had a really amazing view until people started to file in on the floor and then there were just backs and Jonathan’s head over a few shorter shoulders. NO GOOD. So Sarah and I moved down to sit by this dude in a business suit who was rocking the hell out (loved the argyle socks, not gonna lie) which, given the music and the atmosphere, made it feel like the most epic storytime ever. Unfortunately, there were two problems: one, it’s a flip, which means the quality’s pretty terrible, and two, the cam filled up at the beginning of Uniforms, so I switched to my kodak digicam, which came out with less than impressive sound and a really grainy image. Still, it was amazing. I’ve seen youtube videos of SW live, so I knew to expect something fantastic, but it’s a comparison of flickr pics of the Grand Canyon versus standing on the ledge. Best live show I’ve ever seen (big apologies to The Red Elvises) — I learned how to love both Corridors and Century Eyes, and was awed enough that I managed to keep from more than just choking up at Seventy-Four (good thing they don’t play the older stuff anymore, I think, because Sung Into the Street would have made me cry like a little girl).
And White Waves! White Waves. Absolutely my favorite SW song, and everything about it was just unreal and perfect. I was a little surprised to hear The Snow Leopard for the encore — I didn’t realize it was as popular as it was, but it was beautiful, and that’s what the crowd was calling for (alas, I was the only voice for Licorne, which I’d give my left leg to see live).
Phoenix set list
Landscape at Speed
An Insular Life
God Made Me
Runners of the Sun
I Was a Cloud
Encore - The Snow Leopard
After the show, I was really surprised by how quickly people disappeared — yeah, it was pretty late, but come on, guys! My impressed and outgoing friend dragged me over to Jonathan, for congratulations and moments of personal panic — I suffer from overwhelming, crippling shyness when it comes to strangers, much less strangers that I admire. Despite that, he was totally cool; after a few moments of discussion about SW someday playing my hometown, and my own bemoaning the fact that I wouldn’t see tomorrow’s show, we asked him to autograph our mini-dossiers (I’d considered the full-size one I’d left at home, but was afraid to get it beat up in the trip), which he was kind enough to do, and then pulled mine open to point out the fact that the man in one of the photos was sitting on not a tree but a croc/gator — I don’t remember for the life of me which it was.
And then the long drive home of blissful exhaustion, because there was work to go to the next morning and I hadn’t had the foresight to get both days off; my job’s a bit difficult about that — hell, I haven’t had two days off together since before November. But my boss is an amazing human being, and after listening to my excited retelling of the previous evening’s adventure she pulled some strings with the other managers and had someone take my closing shift, then shoo’ed me out the door. Just enough time to drop by the house to grab directions to Club Congress and one of my favorite shirts for the Clothe Thor Fund (which was an entirely unsubtle reminder about the hometown, sorry guys D:), leave a scribbled note to the SO not to wait up, to Fry’s for Part II of the ILU GUYS PLZ TAKE CARE project, and a few frantic calls to see who I could take with me (alas, everyone else was either working or otherwise irrevocably engaged).
A grueling four hour drive later (protip: never drive long distances in negative heel shoes, or you will possibly cripple yourself for days — I know this now), and a frustrating amount of time trying to find somewhere to park in downtown Tucson (worse because I’ve never attempted city driving on my own before thanks to a terror similar to meeting new people, but thank god for TomTom) on a Friday night, but I somehow made it just in time. Another half hour of nervousness before I gathered the courage to approach Thor with my contribution, but he was also super-friendly and just — god, if I didn’t love these guys for their talent alone, their generosity of spirit is icing on the cake; I didn’t want to intrude on their time, but what little I took in seriously made my month. Hugging Thor! Much like hugging a very nice bear. Jenn (from WO) and Jordan (from HS and SW) were also really great to talk to, even if I was firmly stuck in horrifically shy mode and they probably thought I didn’t care about them at all. D:
(By comparison, I gave an employee of my own the time off to go see the Eagles in concert in Phx just a few days before I saw SW; she took a friend in the final stages of terminal cancer, IV drips and wheelchair and all, to the show as well. This woman has been a fan for their entire career, her own brick in Winslow and a house full of memorabilia and everything, and had brought a poster she’d painted of them, that she wanted to have displayed at her funeral with their autographs. They were coldly informed that ‘they don’t even sign things for their buddies’ and told to go away.)
Club Congress is a beautiful place, but I was disappointed by the turn out — maybe half of the Phoenix crowd, from what I could tell. Still, all three bands played another great show. During the Wye Oak set, Jenn rocked hard enough to set her amp on fire, and then there was the snapped string mid-song. The crowd really seemed to love them, which is great because they really do deserve it. Luckily, I had enough cash on me to grab the album that I didn’t get the night before.
The Shearwater set list was … mostly the same, I think, though the encore was Home Life (which was also high on my list of ‘please play this live, guys’ so yay). Another absolutely gorgeous show, though maybe not quite matching the energy of the Phoenix show. (Maybe the hiking had something to do with it.) I brought the camera again in the hopes that I might catch all of Uniforms this time, but the transition between Seventy-Four and it was so fast I didn’t have a chance, and I didn’t record the rest of the show because I knew the quality would be awful, anyway. Unfortunately, I had to jet because it was already after 2 and I had a four hour drive ahead of me and work the next day. Long, utterly exhausting, but so worth it despite hamstringing myself with my gas pedal — I regret nothing, and I can’t wait until they come back. I really hope they go for Flagstaff next time, instead of Tucson — it was a lovely set and a larger potential crowd, but I think the Flag scene is a bit more receptive, musically … and it’s closer, which is totally not me being selfish at all, haha. Might also pull in the Vegas/Reno fans who don’t want to go all the way to Salt Lake City, too, which would be pretty amazing.
Next time I want to organize a charter bus and fill it with people. Next time I’ll totally be more prepared; someone on the Shearwater board followed them almost completely through their west coast tour, and that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. Hopefully the next tour will involve Missoula, which would make my life.
Current Mood: Esctatic
I’ve been quiet lately, mostly because I’m moving to Arizona early next month, and haven’t had time to do much of anything besides pack and work as much as possible. D: This, however, is relatively unimportant, save for that whole leaving the state thing. (It’s a lot easier to plan and execute life-altering moves when one only has two boxes of earthly possessions. An entire apartment is another thing, and it seems like we can’t get rid of this stuff fast enough.)
The neat thing of the day is the fact that my SO has finally set aside his technical stuntedness in the interest of finding something that would allow him to connect to our (soon-to-be) old co-workers, and family and whatnot. The solution, of course, is a WordPress site, since he very much dislikes myspace and the rampant faggotry that carries on there (and who doesn’t?).
So. flashpointsmile.com is his new home, and I’m rather excited for this. He’s already talking about learning how to design his own themes and whatnot, and god knows it never just stops there. (Why yes. I do dream about nerdy things like coding together, thanksforasking.)
I guess this also constitutes a new hostee! post, so hooray there.