It has been five years since I’d done this and I had sworn it off many times before. I tried doing it during several fits and starts in the early 1990s, but none of those worked. Through the years I was convinced to do it for various causes, once even in a chemotherapy unit to cheer up the patients, but none of those times worked out as planned. But this past Saturday night (08/24/13) I gave it one more shot.
I performed my music solo, without support, without a net, at the Cornerstone Coffeehouse in Camp Hill, PA. Now, for most this may not seem like a big deal, after all the Cornerstone always has solo performers playing on the weekends. But for me this was truly an event. It was a sort of mission and redemption wrapped in one. Long ago, I concluded that my musical talents lie in composing and not performing, although I have been involved in scores of rock bands and have played every major position on the field – lead vocal, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums. However, being a bit of a control freak, bands have always felt limiting and the urge to do it alone has persisted despite the consistent disasters when attempted.
What brought me out this time was the fact that I have composed a whole bunch of new songs but have not had the time nor resources to record it. I had spent five years on my previous recording project, a 33-song double CD international release called Imaginary Lines 33 , in 2009. I was also involved with a band and we recorded an album in 2010 that never got released because of internal disagreements. At that time I was pretty sure I was retired from all things music. But that pesky muse kept bothering me, and soon new song ideas started to form. I came up with the idea of “One More Rock to Roll” as an upfront declaration that this would be my last go-round. I also brought back the fictional “Sinclair Soul”, an alias I had used for years when writing articles as well as on some music projects.
The music was written on piano but had rich arrangements for several guitars and other rock instruments. I was eager to enlist many of the fine musicians I had worked with over the years as well as find a “front man” to handle the dynamic vocals, but as of mid 2013 I had not had any luck getting the recording process started. So I inquired about playing my songs solo on piano at the Cornerstone, a website client of mine and a much better alternative to performing at a bar room or any other “noisy” situation.
So, after all this background, how did the gig itself go?
In one sense it was quite a disappointment. Many of the folks I invited did not show up and I didn’t quite get the capacity crowd I had hoped for. Also, I made some really air-headed mistakes on some of the cover songs I performed (the songs which I , ironically, walked into the gig without performance worries).
However, in a larger sense Saturday’s gig was a tremendous success. I performed 14 brand new “Sinclair Soul” songs (including one so new that it doesn’t yet have a name) and each went off without a hitch. None of these songs had every been performed live for anyone except my dog and these were obviously my main focal point on Saturday’s gig. The dozen or so cover songs and three old Imaginary Lines tunes were really just there to fill up the two hour commitment.
Also, the crowd that was there was tremendous in quality if not quantity. For the first time ever, I performed music with my wife, all three sons, and mother in the audience. The rest of the audience gave me a warm reception, even if many only sat in for a song or two while they enjoyed a coffee, beverage, or ice cream cone. There was a woman in the audience who knitted throughout the first set and gave me the resultant winter hat when she was completed. There was also a tremendously talented musician in the audience named Suzi Brown who stayed for the whole gig and gave a compliment at the end and, of course, the Cornerstone staff was gracious and helpful.
Although I was hoping to perform everything perfectly and fill the place up, it didn’t quite work that way. But getting the new songs out there after all this time kind of made them real entities and not just figments of my imagination, which makes this past Saturday a very special occasion indeed.