Once a year, Zepparella plays a hometown show in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. This is a wonderful night for me. I have loved this venue from the moment I moved here 16 years ago: the gold leaf ceiling, the warm dark red of the walls, the mojo. Someone once walked me around the venue and told me ghost stories.
All the great music halls in San Francisco have ghosts, as anyone who works there will tell you. It makes sense, seeing as they have often been theaters for close to 100 years. I think of all of the bodies who have worked there, on stage and off. I think of all of the audiences packed in over the years, and that adds up to quite a bit of plasma and energy that you can feel when you walk in. I also love to think of music as a conduit connecting worlds, and imagine all those melodies conjuring spirits from other decades.
Saturday, I get to play this great venue. I am so thrilled to headline at the Great American that this show starts to get all-important in my head. Whereas I never get stage fright, a week before an important show I can start to obsess. I want the show to be great from beginning to end, and right about now I start to get plagued by worry.
When I get real wound up about it, I have a few techniques to bring me back to Earth. First, I imagine the worst case scenario:
Saturday night, no one will show up. Or,
People will show up and my equipment will fail me. Or,
My equipment will work but I will forget how to play. Or,
I will play the show and everyone will see what a terrible drummer I actually am. Or,
I will play the show and only 13 people will be there to see it. Or,
I will never get to play the show because I die. Or,
The show will never happen because everyone dies.
Somehow, this calms me down. When I spin out the worse case scenario to the most extreme conclusion, it starts to put things in perspective for me. Really? The show is that important? EVERYONE COULD DIE. I’m not sure why this is comforting. But it does seem silly to worry, faced with that possibility.
Another technique I find helpful is to look at the picture at the top of this blog post. That is an image of the space shuttle leaving Earth. Look at that tiny little thing! Its futility makes me feel so tender about our minuscule acreage in the vastness of the universe. When I look at this photo, I think of Monte Python, I don’t know why. I think of the Black Knight, with all but one leg cut off: “I’M INVINCIBLE!” Look at that little spaceship. Look at the vastness of a planet that is relatively small in the echoes of space. It breaks my heart to think of our marvelous self absorption. It makes my show on Saturday laughably unimportant.
Finally, the real help comes from the quiet technique of falling in to the true self, that infinite place that lies within each of us, below the ego, below this Clementine who walks the planet with all of her emotions and thoughts and fears and anticipation. There is a vast stillness at the center of each of us, an infinite consciousness that animates everything. This is the place of still comfort, of truth. In this place, I see that I understand nothing of the forces that have been at work since before I was born to create this Clementine person. I understand that I understand nothing. Somehow, this is of great comfort and peace to me.
When I sink into this still and infinite place, my upcoming show comes in to view. I am on stage, behind my drums, looking out into an audience of people who paid to see my band play. I see the women in my band with their instruments, and I feel how much I adore them. I see us creating spirals of sound that reach across the decades to bring forth whispers of our ancestors. The physical joy of playing drums fills my limbs and I well up with gratitude for the ability. In fact, I am overcome with gratitude for the whole thing, for the magic forces that created this Clementine, and for the fact that her job this Saturday is to get on stage in that beautiful venue run by spectacular people and play her heart out to 13 people.