One of my favorite parts about auditioning at the Bluebird is meeting people. I met a young man named Chase. He was sitting on the cement flower bench beside the sidewalk. Thirty contestants were already in line in front of him. Chase looked liked your typical twenty-one year old. He kinda had the Justin Bieber look with brown instead of blonde hair. Not as many tattoos as Justin but he's not as old as Justin is now. We talk about his love of music. How he loves to write music in his bedroom for hours. How music is spiritual to him. It is him and God spending time together. I can feel the passion as he shares his story. It is the same passion that is driving everyone that is sitting and standing in this line.
What I love is the connection that we all have as we wait to audition. We all have the belief deep down that this is what we were designed or crafted to do. The reality is that not everyone can win. I know that Millennials will have a rough time accepting this. It is difficult for all of us to accept disappointments and defeat. Life is filled with hard times. Life tests us and teaches us how to keep on keeping on. Taking the next step and the next and the next. Until we are almost there, and then the steps get harder. The grade is steeper. The competition is another level up and we have to step up our game. We take another step. Maybe the final step. We don't look down at the step. We are focused on the goal. The goal is growing closer. I can barely see it. It is a light under door. A door that is at the top of the steps. I take the last step and reach for the knob. I have arrived. My hands are sweaty and my pulse is elevated as I swing open the door. I'm taken back as I look at what I now see. Another set of steps.
The Bluebird is a very small venue. The crowd capacity is about eighty people. Thirty people were already filling up seats as I looked for a table to sit at. In front of the stage were three small tables. I picked out the one in the middle. This was the best seat in the house. Why was nobody sitting here? Maybe, they thought this was a church and the best seats are in the back. Maybe, it made people nervous to be closer to the stage. No idea.
I sat in this exact location the last time I tried out. I wouldn't call it my lucky seat but hey I'm not a believer in luck. I'm a believer in God but not luck. Some people use the terms interchangeably. My new friend, Chase went and sat on a bar stool in the back. I few minutes later he decided that my seats looked better than his. They were.
I can tell you why I picked those seats up front. It is because of an event that happened about twelve years ago. I went to the Classic Bean coffee shop on a Saturday night. I would play my guitar and songs that I had written every time I could. I usually ended up performing three or four times a year. This worked out well. I got to play enough to scratch the itch without making it bleed.
On stage was a solo performer. He was in his mid fifties, over weight, and struggling. I watched him as he played his songs. He played songs and nobody clapped. I could see that he was dying up there. This is one of the worst feelings that a musician can have. I have been there. I have played and the silence is deafening.
I remember I was playing with Jason and Art. Jason is a fantastic bass player and Art played a mean timbale. The timbale is a small drum that makes a big sound. I bought a piece of foam for art to place inside the timbale when we practiced at my home. I still remember the first song that we would open up the show with. It is a song that every guitar player plays but very few can perform it well. We played Stairway to Heaven. We would jam down to that song. I would strum and pick my Martin, Jason would pluck a foot stomping beat and Art would beat that drum like a drunk redneck beats his wife. And when we were done. Silence. Nobody clapped. I don't know why. Later in the show the crowd would warm up and everything was cool. I never figured out why?
I picked my table and chair in the front row. I was picking the best seat in the house. I decided that I was going to be his biggest fan. I was probably his only fan but I wanted to be secure in my position. I sat there and listened to every word of every song. At the end of each song. I clapped. I clapped loud and hard. It took a couple songs but guess what? People joined in. They had no choice. Clapping is contagious, when people clap, it makes you want to clap.
Something happened that day. The anxiety that the performer felt melted away. He started singing louder and stronger. His guitar licks were smoother and catchier. He became the star of his own show. He owned the stage. It was a great night for him. I was glad to be there.
I went up and shook my new friends hand after the show. He looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you. I am glad you came to my show. " I smiled and said, " I am happy to be here. Great job. I enjoyed your show. "
Wow! Isn't it great when we get to encourage someone? To be able to say, "Hey, I've been there. I understand how you feel but I know you can do this. I love that song. I love your voice. You are great." We all need encouragement. It is jet fuel for a VW bug.
My example is an extreme example. Let me give you another one. Last night I went to the Commodore Grill. Jimmy Payne was the successful songwriter that was the feature act. Two of his hit songs were "My eyes only see you." sung by Charlie Pride and "Woman, Woman." by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. He wrote some great songs. It has been a few years since he wrote a hit song. Maybe he has doubts about his ability like I do? Maybe he wonders if he is still capable of writing a hit song?
I watched him as he was getting ready to leave. He had his guitar case in his left-hand and was headed slowly toward the door. I was seated at a table close to the exit. I gave him an smile, reached out and shook his hand, and said, "Great job." I am sure he has heard that hundreds, maybe even thousands of times, but those are in the past. He needed to hear it today from me. One more time. A word of encouragement. Encouragement is rocket fuel. Fill 'er up. "Go Jimmy."