KC at Yorba Linda — 01June2007

Playing solo is always twice as scary at first, but I settle into it OK after a while. It went pretty well — there were lots more studying kids this time than we normally find at Yorba Linda, but it’s the end of school, so maybe it was cramming for finals time. Still, I had several people listening and requesting, pretty much right from the start, so it was fine.

Side story: Back in the 70’s, there was an arcade video game called “Tail Gunner”. It was terribly primitive by today’s standards, of course, but it was the only game that I ever put any of my hard-earned quarters into. It was a “sit-down” game, and you were the tail gunner of a spaceship, where your job was to shoot, using the between-the-legs joystick, three incoming bad guys that would fly in from the sides, dance around a bit, and try to “pass” you. If you let three past, you were out.

One time I was playing it, and a young kid came and parked outside, watching. This made me nervous, and I started playing pretty badly. He watched for a while, and said, “You’re trying too hard.” This was nail-on-the-head absolutely true — he could tell just by looking. The cool part about this game was that you had to shoot those guys on pure instinct. You didn’t have time to think, aim, and shoot — you had to give up thinking. It was a “Zone generator” — it required, and caused, you to go into the Zone to play it. When he was watching me, I couldn’t zone out, and had to resort to “trying”, which didn’t work. I’ve never seen a game, before or since, that was such a direct path to that “use the Force” feeling.

Playing music is a lot like that — for me anyway. At first, when I’m working on a new song, it’s all mechanical, just getting the notes. But when I can relax, zone out, and let it flow, I’m so much better. And it’s so much more fun.

Which leads (finally) to my mistake on Friday. I brought the video camera and set it up, pointing at myself. The good part is that it’s possible to grab stills from the video where you aren’t looking like a dork. The bad part is that I play badly. I want to have good, mistake-free takes for the movie, and I end up “trying too hard”. I can’t just let go and play, so I play worse, not better.

The temptation to bring the camera (or an audio recorder) is that, sometimes, it all goes magic. When it does, you think, “Dang! I wish I had a recording going!” What I finally realize is that the recorder is never gonna capture the magic — the recorder *prevents* the magic.

So, yeah, I’m not that proud of the songs on the video. There might be one or two that are presentable — hardly worth the trouble to convert them off of the tape. I’m gonna have to learn to ignore the temptation to try to record this stuff.

But I did have fun. It’s one of the “open ’til 11” ones, but for the first time, people were actually leaving before they got kicked out. By 10:20 or so, there were only 3 or 4 people left in there (and the battery was dead on the vidcam), so I thought it’d be a good time to try out some of the new songs I’ve been practicing: “Still Crazy”, “American Tune”, “Girl”, and even “Mexico”. They all went OK, except “Girl” seems kind of uninteresting when I do it. It sounds much better in my head. Maybe with Warren playing along it won’t be so dull.

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One thought on “KC at Yorba Linda — 01June2007

  1. That’s a really nice pic.., it looks like you’re having a really good time… and not just all by yourself… but together with your listeners.Great story re ‘Tail Gunner’,.. and I remember you telling it to me just like that awhile back. It really does illustrate that critical point. I run into this problem all the time too, and I still remember how pathetically paralyzed I felt when we followed LJ at the Blatz Bros reunion. I was trying so hard not to make any mistakes that I was all-but not playing. Only when I switched to harmonica briefly was I able to make some kind of musical contribution. One further point, though… the thing that prevents the magic of in-the-zone playing is no more the video camera than it is LJ. The culprit is really a variety of confusion that we’re all more or less at the mercy of… but which can be overcome / short-circuited / replaced with something else… at least to some extent. This is clear from observations of musicians who continue to play very well despite the presence of a cameraman right on top of them, with the lens pointed right at their fingers. Better yet, we know this from our own occasional experience of not being done in by the camera, or by the presence of some intimidatingly good player. I’m still just trying to figure this out, but the essential ingredient does seem to be some kind of deliberate letting go of concern for oneself — or more especially for someone’s else’s perception of oneself. I’m continually amazed at how difficult this is, especially considering how I am on rare occasion free from it / oblivious to it. Anyhow, my current ‘trick’ is to attempt to overwrite my concern for myself with concern for the listeners… their need for some kind of musical experience. This is turn shifts my attention to the performance itself,.. which intensifies the play-hear-play-hear-play_better feedback loop… and once that reaches critical mass, I’m gone… into that very zone, I expect. The trick then is to stay there for any length of time… but I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to learn how to do so, partly because we do it all the time with activities that are less obviously difficult, but actually very complex, skill-based, and at least potentially public… like riding a bicycle, or having supper in a restaurant, or having a conversation. Sorry to get carried away there… I guess I’m trying to explain this to myself, as much as to anyone who might be reading this.

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