Friday, November 14, 2008

Thoughts from a gig

“I’m starting to wonder if this may be a really bad idea…” That was my inner dialogue 15 minutes before I was scheduled to go onstage for a solo acoustic gig at Raglan Road Irish Pub in the KC Power and Light District. I’d played before crowds before, and I wasn’t nervous as much as I was dead-dog tired.

I played a gig from 9-10:45 on Monday night during our User’s Conference so our attendees would have something to do. It was unofficial, and definitely opt-in, we didn’t force anyone to come. For me the conference started at 10am Sunday morning til almost 11pm, then Monday 7am to 8:45pm almost non stop…and here I was walking thru the bar talking to our customers who had come out to hear me play.

I went into the bathroom to change out of my long sleeve shirt to just wearing my black TouchNet Get Fit shirt, and almost did the Roy Scheider “IT’s SHOWTIME!” scene from the movie All the Jazz” .

However once I got on stage and hammered the first “”DA-DA,shicka-schicka-shick DA DA DA strums of “Love the Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbit, I was off to the races. Guitar was full and rich, my vocals were strong thru the monitor at my feet, and I figured it didn’t matter if I was any good or not, it had started and I had to finish it.

In the crowd were almost 200 people from our conference. They came out of curiosity, boredom, duty, and maybe a bit of pity, but I really didn’t care their reason. We were all in this together so I had to lead them home to the promise land. Here we are now, entertain us!

After Rainy Night—went right into Jonathon Anderson’s Sunshine, with the favorite lyrics of any salesperson “How Much Does it Cost—I’ll buy it”. From there went PG13+ by playing “Stay with Me by the Faces/Rod Stewart. Then Ham & Egged it for a while playing Maggie Mae, Night Moves, Amie—classic 70’s AM rock staples to good reviews. Then put on the capo and played Sweet Caroline and then dedicated Brown Eyed Girl to our pals from Brown University, which always get everyone involved.

Then transmorgrified to skinny Elvis, playing Blue Suede Shoes, That’s Allright Mama, gaining weight along the way til I got to Suspicious Minds. After Elvis left the building, went into left field and played Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Friends in Low Places and Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. By this time I had some dancers….which is what every performer hopes for. They were a very good natured happily married couple that I believe would dance to a ringtone if it was played loud enough. I finished the first set with Cover of the Rolling Stone by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. There are probably some other songs in there, but I have blanked them out of my memory.

During the break, the first crop of people slunk out, but after a full day of learning plus a heavy meal with a few stout beers, I would have joined them, but I had Set #2 to play. Then a few late stragglers who had maybe been to other pubs came in to join the party.
After making a lap of the place I rejoined the stage to a crowd that was both smaller, but definitely rowdier. Those who stayed REALLY wanted to be there. Heck, I could have put my phone up to the mic and played my own ringtones and they’d applaud.

2nd Set started with Johnny Cash’s Fulsom Prison Blues, which gets the crowd somewhat active. From there went into the white-bread country classic of The Gambler, then turning somewhat outlaw country playing Greatest Country Song Ever Written/You Never Call Me By My Name, then Redneck Mother. When those 2 songs get played, you know who went to college in the 70’s or early 80’s. They sing along with gusto. Muchito gustito. Of course, they haven’t heard those songs for 25+ years so it brings it all back to the first time they heard it played and sung along at a college party or college bar and were able to out for biscuits and gravy after the bars closed and sleep til noon the next day. Mozart is tranquil and is like a fine wine. David Allen Coe whips people into a distemper like a few (too many) tequila shots.

Then I went softer, playing Margaritaville, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and then turned GEN-X and played Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, then Every Rose has it’s Thorn to decent reaction. Throwing in a little Brett Michaels perks people up due to his reality TV show.

Finally got some real crowd participation by playing Summer Lovin and You’re the one that I want from Grease. Heather Fenton bounded up on stage to lead a bunch of Pink Ladies in the girl parts. About 7 other women came up and sang in tune. No other guy/T-Birds came up, Knickie didn’t have Danny’s back that night, but that was what every performer wants—participation.

By this time of the set, I was ready to wrap it up, so I threw in a favorite that people don’t expect, Honky Tonk Women by the Stones. It always goes well. Then for the finale, and you shouldn’t have to ask, is American Pie by Don McLean. That dang song has like 17 verses, and I always get lost, so I improvise and combine verses. Frankly, ain’t nobody really paying attention, except Dean Vermeire who laughed out loud when I had the last slow verse saying “And the lovers loved, and the poets died…..not a word was spoken, the churches were all broken…” American Pie is the best finale song, but turns out was the penultimate song. Mostly people are really glad I’m finished so they can go home, but the remaining crowd was pretty rowdy and I got a log of shouts and yells and ovation to play “Freebird”. It was a joke by some of the people in the crowd, but to quote a Lynnyrd Skynnrd type person, I done-played it. I cut the verses short and finished to another ovation, this time secretly everyone in the bar wanted me to stop.

All in all a great show, but I had sort of an out-of-body experience several times. I would be playing a song and seeing the people in the crowd and my mind would wander to thoughts of I wonder what they ate for dinner, and wow, there are the guys from Notre Dame and I wonder how many song’s I still have to play.

The next day, people commented on how much they enjoyed the show, and in reality, it will improve with age and elapsed time. They won’t remember the gaffes, the misquoted lyrics, the out of tune guitar or the raggedyness of my voice. Like a classic WHO or Stones concert, some of these things are better in memory or even BEST if you didn’t see it in person, just heard about it.

When it was over, I was tired, but it was a good kind of tired.

Johnny Murphini has left the building.


sunnyhello said...

Ha. If you had a recording of that American Pie line, I would so put you on my ringtones. (Can't say I'd dance to it though.)

brady said...

Dude, who are you and where did you learn to play so many songs?

I'll be first to admit that we've got 0% of the genomes in common that gets you up in front of a crowd to perform solo. But if you ever form the band, Murphini and the Magic Ring Tones, I'd consider joining.

murphini said...

I can play as many songs as I can hear and approximate. Since no one really listens to the lyrics or the key or chords, it's pretty easy--and I've found people give me the benefit of the doubt. 3 chords can get there mostly, with the 4th chord in any song, you can pretty much play Bethoven.

You your-own-self are the one who launched my musical career with two moves:

1. When I visited you in Phoenix all those years ago and lamented that I would never be able to read music you said:
Don't let not knowing music interfere with you being a musician.

2. My first ever public gig was at your wedding. Thanks!

JB said...

Rain Man plays the classics...

Listen as Johnny makes them his own.

Good job ol' chap!