Hello all! I wanted to report in with a bit of writing but first to say that in a departure from my usual Broadway hustle, I’m going to be playing guitar with the Funkonauts on Halloween. If you’re not familiar, Funkonauts are a killer local funk/comedy group that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with for the past few years. We’ll be at the Family Wash in Nashville with our buddies Grizzly T and the Salvation. In addition, I’ve been writing songs and recording demos, with the goal being to start playing some original music soon. I’ll keep this space updated once that starts to materialize.
Enough housekeeping, it’s story time.
The other night, I was the victim of the perfect set of circumstances and played a gig sick as fuck.
Currently, it’s Fall in Nashville. A brutally hot summer, where the air was so moist and thick that I couldn’t breathe, has come to an end. Fall in Nashville is a season of war. The temperature is volatile, pitching back and forth 20 degrees at a time like a drunk driver. It leaves your body disoriented as it ushers in a contagious seasonal depression that can hit the particularly receptive person square in the jaw like the first time in the season one doesn’t think to bring a jacket and gets caught in the cold.
Nashville’s violent fall combined with living in a petri dish with a toddler and too many late nights playing guitar all culminated into a super stuffy nose, a bad cough, and a fuzzy brain as I left my house for my 10:30 pm gig.
I had a buddy in college back in my psychonaut days who coined the phenomenon of being “fucked up on sick” as I washed him ash a cigarette into a pot of soup. We were chasing certain, uhm, “altered states of perception” or whatever at the time and he theorized that a having a head cold was a distant cousin of smoking a joint. It put your perception slightly askew of center, for better or for worse. Wouldn’t you see the guitar differently?
Unfortunately, it was my decision making that suffered first from this strange new lens I was viewing the world through and I took THE worst possible way to my gig. I zigged when I should have zagged; I thought I was the smartest person in East Nashville taking what I thought was my home run way into downtown for my gig right up until I was faced with crippling road closures due to Tennessee State University’s homecoming game. Humbled by the oppressive traffic, I snaked my way around the banks of East Nashville until I found a way across the river with no respite and hauled ass to my gig.
A picture of what is clearly a futuristic police trebuchet that I took in traffic:
I found parking, schlepped my gear, and was rocking and rolling with the guys not five minutes later. My sojourn to the gig that should have only taken about 20 minutes tookan hour and I was late. Being late sucks, but as it was the exception and not the norm for my behavior, despite all of my best efforts, it wasn’t a big deal and the band killed 15 minutes while waiting for me. In another lapse of judgement and zig-zag moment, I put my Yeti cup with hot tea and honey in my gig bag as my hands were full and proceeded to spill most of it while putting on and taking off my gig bag.
The gig went well as the rhythm section was tight and everyone involved in the music making had good rapport with each other, musically speaking. I found myself switching back and forth between two states of mind, both of which were littered with stray bad notes and wrong chords.
The first of the states I experienced was hyper focused and very intentional on playing specific hooks and licks correctly in an effort to overcome my pressing, while not extremely serious, ailment. I had been serially screwing up a lick while playing with this group, following by serially forgetting to learn it on my own time. For some reason, the lick clicked. I could finally recall it correctly and confidently and it felt right in time. I also felt acutely aware of rhythm when I was in this state. I was able to lock into pockets and maintain them. This group dabbled in the classic genre of cover band medley rap, which required dedication to a groove for minutes and I somehow pitched in and recalled a Snoop Dogg verse from the Chronic. It was wild times.
I bounced back and forth between that hyper focus to an almost zen-like detachment from what exactly came out of my fingers due to being overcome by the cloudiness in my head and losing the war against my cough. Out of this detachment came a few beautiful phrases and pining vibrato. I inadvertently bypassed distractions and various mental filters and just let the guitar play itself and the result was pleasing. I try to avoid over thinking when I’m playing a gig to differ to listening and letting things be spontaneous. This was verging on non-thinking.
All in all, it was a decent experience. It’s not one I would recommend going out of your way for, but if you have to gig in the dregs of being sick, roll with it and have a good time, basking in the meaninglessness of life as you’ll be hopefully in good health for your next gig. We got through the gig, sounded good while doing it, and the check cleared! Huzzah! I’m fortunately on the back end of the cold and have played since, although not with nearly the disoriented feeling of being fucked up on sick that I experienced that night. The best way to describe it in the end is to say that my sickness led to a night of me playing Fight or Flight guitar.