The day of a show is a strange one. I warm up the voice and fingers. Write the set list. Rehearse it once, twice. Rehearse transitions between songs. Pack up my merchandise – CDs, tees, download cards. Count up all my instrument and speaker cables, lug the mixer and speakers up from the basement. Choose an unwrinkled shirt, vest, tie. Make sure we have child care for the kids after I leave and before my wife gets home from work. Envision new listeners discovering my music at the show and it bringing them joy.
I’m also filled with an outsize ambition, every time. “I could learn this song today — and I bet I could pull it off tonight!” I want to add new songs to the set. Yet it’s fantasy. I can’t learn a song well enough to perform it solidly in less than a day. This idea is driven by a desire to do something novel and unexpected. Driven by a desire to really give the listeners something to remember.
Because that’s the point of the whole thing. Whatever strokes my ego gains from performing songs I wrote, and performing them as well as I can, the ultimate goal is to provide a listener with a transcendent experience. Whatever’s going on at home, it’s gone, because you’re lost in the song for just a moment. Or maybe the song cracks open a nagging personal drama, a seemingly unsolvable problem, or opens up a long-untouched memory box inside you and things just spill out.
That’s what I’m preparing for — to be some channel for that kind of transformation. In the process of writing notes on my set list and folding up mic stands, it’s hard to keep that in mind. But hopefully the degree of preparation I do translates into an equal amount of inspiration for the listener.
Or maybe they’ll just have a good time over a glass of wine. That’s good too.