The best ten seconds of my life (while still having my pants on) are the ten seconds right before my foot steps onto the stage. It’s been like that as long as I can remember.
Many performers are terrified of getting onstage, even though the audience would never be able to tell. I know a lot of famous, brilliant and seasoned artists who cry backstage before a show, some even throw up. Full blown panic attacks, baby. I never understood why someone would subject themselves to that, over and over again, and pursue it as their path in life. Even if the feeling lifts once you get into the performance, I would still not think it was worth it. No fuckin’ way.
I never had this problem. To me, the stage is my home, it is my element, it is the place where I am most comfortable.
Is that because I am an Extrovert? A narcissistic exhibitionist? No. In fact, if you know me somewhat well, you know that I am a pretty classic Introvert, uncomfortable in social settings like parties where my only function is to mingle and make small talk. I hate that. I try to be as invisible as possible, merge with the wallpaper, quickly drink myself into what the mighty Pink Floyd would call ’comfortable numbness’, and get the hell out of Dodge as soon as I can. But point me to an imaginary square on the floor, and tell me that’s the stage, and I will get on there and own that room like it’s my bitch.
I’m pretty good at hanging out with my true friends, at least in smaller settings, but even then I usually need a lot of recovery time afterwards (and not just for the hangover). Human interaction is draining, even when it is good. But the stage is different.
There is definitely an interaction going on between performer and audience, but when I am on that stage, I control the environment. I never fake onstage, what you see is totally me, but it is the part of me that I feel good about showing you. I truly feel that I can do no wrong up there, even if I make a mistake, miss a cue, hit a flat note, or whatever. I just embrace it, move on. Most of the time those things only help the performance anyway. The audience get to experience a very real, human moment, and that’s usually an endearing event, that will make them feel closer to you. So it’s a win-win deal; if I play everything perfect, it’s cool, if I don’t, that’s cool too.
During a performance, my communication skills transform completely from how I am in private. I enjoy connecting with members in the audience, making eye contact (which I am very uncomfortable with otherwise), enjoying the emotional exchange of those little moments. I am confident, assertive and playful. I often laugh out loud onstage. It’s just an expression of the joy I am feeling, and also, there is usually something funny going on anyway, even if it isn’t always obvious to the audience.
But then, the show ends. The music is over. And I switch off my ’stage mode’. I’m sure some people have been a little confused when they approach me after a show, thinking they’ll be talking to this barely contained bolt of lightning, an affable socialite. No can do. I always try to be friendly and I don’t want to be rude, but that guy you saw onstage 30 minutes ago is dead tired now, and now all that is left is the other part of him, one you didn’t see before. Sorry to disappoint.
That hour on stage is an hour of being in tune with your purpose. Which is why the ten seconds right before showtime are the best of my life (while still having my pants on). (Tony Lind, aka ‘Gramps’, drums)