“Pink Champaign On The Ceiling, Pink Champaign On Ice”….

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Those are my accidentally mangles lyrics to the song “Hotel California”, sputtered in front of a large audience while performing with my post-college band Tribe Called Mike.  That was over twelve years ago, and the Sonic-Mate still won’t let me forget it!!!  🙂

Over at Talk Bass, one of the young bass players is about to go on stage and play in front of people for the first time.  He writes:

my friend asked me to play bass with him on the drum and his brother on guitar at his open house a week from today. prolly to most of you this would be nothing but ive never played in front of more then like 6 people before and now im playing in front of like 200 people….and my god am i nervous

The first time on stage can be really tough. People are usually nervous on stage because, more than anything, they are stressed about making a mistake, messing up. Two things to keep in mind.

(1) Most of the mistakes you’ll make (and make no mistake, you’ll make ’em, we all do) will be tiny ones. Almost everyone in the audience will never hear them. You’ll notice, but it’s because you are a musician and are acutely aware of every little thing you’re doing. There may be a few other musicians in the audience who will notice. But if they’ve also played on stage, they’ll have empathy because it’s happened to them too.

And the major ones?

(2) In 1984, my older brother went to see Bruce Springsteen at the San Diego Sports Arena. During the song “Born In The USA”, The Boss, one of the most experienced performers you’ll ever find, forgot the words to the song! And this was on the “Born In The USA” tour!!!! What did he do? He joked about it with the audience and moved on.

Because I had some stage experience as an actor when I was very young, I didn’t have much of a problem being in front of people (which is strange because I was VERY shy as a kid). But I always had a fear of forgetting my lines. As a bass player, that fear carried over and my fear was indeed making a mistake while playing. My first band, Outta Hand, (the trio of Mikes that would later reform to become Tribe Called Mike), the drummer and I shared lead vocal duties. I used to beat myself up pretty good when I made a mistake, either bass-wise or VOX. My bro had already told me the Springsteen story years earlier, but me, being hard headed, didn’t understand the lesson.  It took a while, but I have to say that when I eventually absorbed the moral of the Springsteen story, that helped my performance confidence and competence so much. I found I was making less mistakes on stage because I was no longer anticipating and anguishing over it. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like making mistakes (hate is the right word), and work hard not to. But, if the Big Boys, those guys who, you know, do this for a living, can forgive themselves for making an “Oopsie” on stage, then I, the raging unprofessional, who does this at best as a side job, well, I can cut myself a little slack.

This leads me to my last point…..

(3) RELAX!!!!! Have a good time!