Author: Campbell, Bruce

Music on the Go

Before I dive into my real topic, I want to weigh in on Ted Lehman’s theme in his Tuesday column regarding AGE (Automatic Gratuitous Encores): I’m in favor of them. Yes, they’re silly, but if the time for them is built into the set schedule, and considering at any festival, there’s always at least one band experiencing their first and maybe only festival appearance – why not give them the thrill of an encore?

One of the cool things about bluegrass is its portability. Since no electricity is required, anywhere you could lug an instrument is a potential venue? For decades, I have brought any instrument on every traveling vacation, and while I occasionally never even played it, most times, it was a great idea.

There’s risk in traveling with an instrument, of course – travel is dangerous for delicate instruments, so you need to either invest in a truly travel-worthy case, and/or have a B-List instrument for travel. I like the second notion – even a good case won’t prevent theft, and better you should risk an axe you could stand to lose.

I brought my guitar on a cruise one time, and it was a double edge sword. On the down side, I was practicing in my cabin, really enjoying the joy of playing music while the salt air wafted in the porthole, when the phone rang. “Ah, it must be a fan, I though!” and picked up the phone.

“Hello”, the female voice said. “Are you the guy playing guitar?”

“Why, yes I am!”, I said.

“Could you knock it off, please?”

Hmm, my fan club wasn’t building at a very good clip…

Later in the cruise, I read that there was a talent show, so I made a point to show up for the tryouts, despite my wounded pride. I arrived at the ship’s theater at the appointed time, and there were about a dozen folks who would be singing, dancing or telling jokes for the talent show. I did my audition (I played a Grateful Dead song), and the house band seemed to be willing and able to back me up from the orchestra pit.

That night, I saw they had given me a favorable spot, and watched with some excitement as the large theater (about 1200 people) filled completely up (there’s not THAT much to do on a cruise ship!). I watched with a critical eye that acts that preceded me. None were bad enough to drive people our of the hall, and none were so good that I would dread following them. Then my turn came.

I walked out on the stage, a confident performer with decades of experience under my belt, and a curious thing happened. When I got to my spot in the spotlight, stage front and center, my right kneecap began bouncing up and down uncontrollably. It was clearly a physical manifestation of stage fright – a condition that I have never suffered from, and indeed, at that moment, still didn’t emotional feel. I was a little worried that I would collapse, or that the vibration would be noticeable to the audience (who I couldn’t even see, due to the spotlights).

I soldiered on. I introduced myself and the song, pretended to recognize a couple of people in the audience, with a pointed finger and a smile, and launched into my song. It went fine – experience does matter. The vibrating kneecap never stopped though. I'll never forget the sound of 1200 people clapping and cheering.

The rest of the cruise, I was recognized everywhere I went, and saw myself on the TVs at every bar. So, the moral is, despite one nasty critic, bringing my guitar was a good idea!

Note: I didn't get an encore...
Posted:  4/10/2013

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email