Live Music - The Good and the Bad

Playing live was always something of a struggle for me, a sort of back-and-forth between hard work and payoff. After I did my first solo show in December of 2018 at the Republic of Pie (my favorite LA venue to-date, mostly because they pay in pie), I set out to play one show a month for the following year. It was a New Year's Resolution that I actually kept, (as you can see on the Live page) and which I talk about in the video from my most recent show below (along with the only other resolution that I kept).

My friend Josh Moreno sketched this during a show at the Republic.

But at the end of 2019, I felt like I had done a ton of practicing, endless marketing, editing photos and videos, staying up late playing shows my wife or kids couldn't go to...and at the end of it I felt like I had very little to show for it. And so I decided to spend the next year writing and recording more. Well, we all know what happened in 2020, so it wasn't like I had a choice in the matter, but I did get a lot better at producing over the next few years, and have written a ton of songs since then.

As the pandemic waned, I did a couple of shows in 2021 and nothing in 2022, outside of performing one cover song for my friend Cortney's John Hughes tribute night (She's doing another one soon -- get your tickets here!), and I was fine with that, though lately I've been getting the itch to play again. And then my friend Kenneith Perrin, a terrific soul singer and performer, invited me to open up for him. I jumped in and practicing (alot, since I haven't played a show in a while), and though the show was a lot of fun, the question still rose up after: Is this worth it?

Though I'm still working through this (which I often do through writing), I think my answer is: Yes...sort of.

I hate to have had such a negative view of performing live, but this recent experience of my first show in over a year taught me some things. 

First off, the connection made with others during a live show far outweighs anything I could do online. If you watch this silly thirty-second video I made of my entire set compressed into a "reel," you'll see that I probably spend about half of my performing time talking to the crowd and half playing music. Honestly, my favorite part of playing live is crowd banter, which you can see in the full set video below, but can only really experience to its fullest live and in-person.

The other thing I learned is that the connection with other musicians is significant, not just in a "networking" kind of way, but in a camaraderie that only happens "on the road," so to speak. The first act of this particular show was a younger guy who had just graduated music college. I could see the angst he felt in performing, in gauging how many people were there, spending time on his phone before the show trying to get more people there, in photos taken before the show and videos during in order to post and share and do all the things we're supposed to do as artists. I could see him going through it, but felt removed in a way, like I've 'been there, done that;' and in the end, I've played enough shows to empty rooms to realize that it doesn't really matter -- like church, attendance isn't the most important metric.

I would argue that the real value of that night wasn't in how many people showed up and whether or not we performed well (though we always want to do our best), but the evening really became magical through the connection in the room. We were able to cheer each other on, encourage, try new things, be silly, tell jokes and stories. At the end, the night turned into an open mic of sorts (bringing audience interaction to a whole new level), but the result was an impromptu showcase of some amazing talent along with a lot of fun. Afterward, I noticed that his post about the show said it was the "most wholesome" show he had played in a while, which I'm quite proud of. I think that's something that was birthed in that room because, though we were very different people in different places, together we made something that night that transcended just another Tuesday night show in LA. 

It's all about connection folks, between performer and attendee, musician to musician, and beyond. And if there is anything that makes all the prep work, driving across town and staying up late worthwhile, it's that.

Okay, so here is the video I keep teasing of the whole performance. I hope you can laugh along with the crowd and enjoy what happened that night. But I hope more that you'll come to the next one!