9:05 – Woken by the telephone.
9:45 – To the supermarket. Why does the supermarket put everyone in a bad mood?
A fairly amorphous day. I eat too much bread. Haruko goes out and returns later. I play the guitar for a bit.
19:30 – To the Stage Door, a pub around the corner, that’s been running an open-mike for a while, but as I’ve been off open-mikes I haven’t checked it out. I sign up and get a slot quite late on in the procedings. Haruko has come with me, but flees after one act.
It’s actually fascinating to watch what people manage to do to genuine musical aspirations – with drunkenness, with their own attitude, and even with the way they hold the guitar. A lot of people seem to be channelling swamp gospel-blues for some reason. More Bible references than one might normally expect from such a group. One performer – already quite intoxicated – has really quite tortured lyrics and a wholly jokey manner, although his delivery is also quite confrontational. He engineers a deliberately ramshackle cover of I Will Survive. He is, I notice, absolutely word-perfect on the lyrics. So, for an hour and a bit I’m able to watch with interest. When my turn is coming up I take the guitar out and tune it up. I’m aware of a blankness with regards to the songs – I can’t remember how they go, but my fingers remember. I’ll just have to trust my fingers.
I begin by insulting the decor – the pictures on the walls are all of sportsmen, which I suggest is counter-intuitive. I think that confuses people.
I play Little Games and Iodine, which is probably the coward’s way out (these are songs that I played hundreds of times when I was on the open-mic circuit), or would be if they didn’t drop me in it, rather – a whole section of Little Games disappears from my fingers both times it emerges in the song and I have to invent a completely new ending on the spot. I can’t really hear the vocals, and can really hear the guitar, which is interesting.
The other punters receive it well, considering that it’s an ongoing train-wreck.
After I’ve played, I notice that I’m less able to pay attention to the other performers and that I’m somehow concerned about winning the night, which is absurd.
A very informative experience, though: Whereas last night I played a couple of songs at a reunion of old friends (and I could feel the support – there was definitely music available, at least during River Rise), tonight was different – not negative, or unsupportive, but very naked. Exactly the sort of environment that one might look down in the middle of the song and realise that one doesn’t recognise the fretboard or one’s own hand at all. It’s not just happening to me, it’s happening to lots of people. I have to go back.
The woman running the night, representing the management, tells me that they used to have pictures of actors, but the actors stopped coming in when they opened the bar under the Old Vic. I try to explain that it was just a something-to-say. I keep saying things ironically, as a joke, that are then taken completely seriously by the person I’m speaking to. I’d have hoped I’d learned better by now.
I don’t stay to the end, but I stay until everyone has played at least once.
Late dinner with Haruko, some emails, then writing this and soon to bed.