“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?