Getting Back “Out There”

“I’m a fucking person, you know what I mean? I’m a person, too. I have feelings. When you boo me it  hurts my feelings.” – Danica Patrick addressing booing “fans.”

Back in my younger days (read: early 20s) I was quite an active musician. I was a grad student in a college town with a bit of an eclectic, and dare I say it, “Bohemian” feel to it. I started playing out and about at the insistence of a bartender of all people who was trying to recruit people for this venue’s true “open mic” (and yes, true – it was anything goes). I’d never played much in front of people before due to my own personal insecurities, but I decided what the hell so one night I gave it a try.

From there it kind of just took off and I started playing an average of 2 venues per week. I played anywhere that featured open mic nights – coffee shops, the night club I was recruited at and the occasional alternate venue. I even played a few full-on shows and got paid for it. It was a nice little side gig for some extra cash.

I was usually well-received at these venues despite the seemingly younger crowd at many of them. I wasn’t too sure how these crowds would receive me at first – my style of play is fairly soft and quiet. I’m not a rocker or anything of the sort. If you could describe my style at all, maybe folk? I don’t know; I’m just me. I’m not like the greatest player in the world and my singing voice does leave a lot to be desired (well, I think it does anyway – many people have reassured me I sing just fine) but I can at least hold my own.

Anyway, that was all fine and good when I lived up there in Pocatello, ID in grad school. When I left grad school and moved back to Texas, man that changed in the blink of an eye. I got back to Abilene and started looking for places to play (I genuinely enjoyed performing; it was a great outlet for me) so when I finally stumbled across one and I signed up to play, I figured all was well right?

WRONG. Oh so wrong. The second I got up to play, plugged my Martin OM guitar in (yes, I defaced a Martin guitar by putting a pickup in it, so sue me) and started into the first song, I experienced something I hadn’t experienced before – all-out rejection. They were not into me at all. They actually booed me off the stage!

Needless to say I was completely crushed and since then I have not played one single open mic night or other venue. That was in 2012. It’s been 5 years now. Hell, I’ve barely even touched my guitar in that 5 years; maybe a little dabble and a few songs every now and then but serious play? Hah, forget about it. That experience just totally killed my soul, my drive and my love of playing and performing.

Nonetheless, I just need something to do some evenings besides just going home and drinking my pain away. It seems like that’s all I do after work these days. Miserable job, no friends and no significant other all rolled into one just drains one’s soul. In SMSing back-and-forth with my good friend “Laina” (go check out her blog if you haven’t already!) yesterday and trying to inject a little more happiness into my life, the topic of me playing and performing came up and yes, I do miss it, even given that bad experience in 2012. Would Like to get back into it? Sure. After all, it seems almost sinful for my very nice Martin guitar to sit in its case virtually unplayed, even at home. I’m sure she misses me tickling her strings for hours per day.

At the same time, it’s hard to bounce back from something like that. My feelings were hurt very badly over that and I’m still somewhat hurt over it (admittedly I do wear my emotions on my sleeve). I will also admit that I am still incredibly apprehensive about putting myself back out there, even in a totally new city that knows nothing of my prior gigs. Who wouldn’t be? Of course, it’s even harder for me, I am always fearful of the unknown, resistant to change (a classic autism trait) and combined with my social anxiety and the fact my own style of music caters to such a niche crowd it’s almost like a death knell.

I just don’t know what to do. I’d like to play out and about again but it’s so scary. If anyone in the performing arts has any suggestions please send them my way. Have you gone through dry spells? Have you had similar things happen to you? How did you get over them? What would you suggest I do to help get over this fear?



12 thoughts on “Getting Back “Out There”

  1. Awww ❤️❤️

    First, thank you so much for the mention! I’m truly touched that our convos bring some light to a dark situation 💞💞

    Second, yeah, damn, what *does* someone do to break out of the pain and understandable apprehension after an experience like that? Shizz, I wish I had an answer! 💜. I can’t recall having been booed off a stage, but I’m sure I’ve experienced something that left me with a similar feeling.

    I tell myself “screw ’em” and try something else, like maybe a different environment or I adjust my tactic or what-have-you (?), although that would probably depend on the details of the particular situation. 🌺

    What I might do in a case like yours is see if you can round up some people to play with, and jam with them. Then scope out some venues that would receive you well 💓. Our state does have a little something for everyone, but sometimes it’s very well hidden 😘

    One thing that might be good is to play cover songs at first, so that you can gauge the audience response. Or sing karaoke and gauge their response to different songs, and then you can get a feel for that specific location and what goes over the best 👍🏼

    You’d still be up there performing, but I find that if they end up not liking something, at least it’s not *my* music or lyrics they’re rejecting, so it’s less personal and devastating to me. 💙

    Just a few ideas; hell, maybe you’ve tried them already, and I figure it was worth a shot to share them 🌷💐💓

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m really pleased to read you’re thinking about getting out there again, I really think you should but totally understand your reluctance – I would have never dared in the first place, I’m far too chicken.

    I’m no musician but I do love live music and before having kids I used to go to a lot of gigs. One thing that occurs to me, and I don’t know how possible it would be or whether its totally out of your comfort zone, but could you check out the venues beforehand, see what kind of people play there and what kind of audiences they attract? To try and find somewhere that would be a good fit for you? The reason I say this is because there have been artists that I’ve really rated and I’ve seen them play one venue and had the audience eating out of their hands, and yet somewhere else the crowd is totally unforgiving and well, just seem to have a crap attitude where they’re not up for a good night at all and they just preyed on anyone who wasn’t the act they were there to see. It wasn’t the fault of the artist at all and I really hate to see that.

    I’ve no advice on getting your confidence back and playing again, it’s not something I’d ever have the nerve to do x

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve been thinking about maybe scoping out some venues and getting a feel before I do anything. Again, my music is a very niche market and takes a certain crowd to really appreciate. Living in Texas, USA country music is king and I’m not that at all. I’m much closer to a blend of soft rock, folk and Celtic. I have a light touch on the guitar and a mellow bass/baritone type voice (not the high twangy tenor of country music).

      Nonetheless, if I can find a venue or two that I’d be a fit I might play a couple of times per month. I doubt I’ll ever play as prolifically as I used to as I just don’t have time for it nor enough venues to keep things “fresh” but it would be a good outlet for me to release even if just every now and then.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really like the sound of your music, that sounds like my kind of thing! If you can find somewhere it sounds like it would be great for you to get out again, just listening to music has saved my sanity so many times, you’re lucky you have the gift to play it too.
        Are there any online local forums where you could ask for venue suggestions?


  3. I agree with Susanne. Scope out some venues, see where your music would be appreciated. Irish pub, coffee houses…maybe check out where the college kids hang out??? Even finding one place would give you an idea where else to try by talking to the other performers.
    It takes some serious guts to go back out there after what happened to you! Cool on you dude!!! I’m cheering for you!👏👏💌💌🎉🌹🌼

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Some people are such assholes. I don’t swear on the Internet much, but I’ll make an exception here.

    Now that I got that off of my chest, what kind of venue were you at that collects such rude, inconsiderate jerks?

    Liked by 2 people

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