Is it storytelling time again? Already? Yay!
Last weekend I was telling this story to my girlfriends around the breakfast table and it was kind of fun to tell and pretty meaningful.
The year was 1990 or thereabouts. I was a student at Buffalo State college. A computer major. And some of my computer major friends had a band. With two drummers. But that part's not important.
The part that's important is that they somehow lost thier lead singer. And I overheard them talking about looking for a new lead singer. I used to sing Michael Hutchense (INXS) songs in my car really loud and fantasize about them making a video of me and all that. I mean EVERYBODY imagines they could be the lead singer if they just got the right lucky break. Y'know.
So I asked my friends if they would let me try out as lead singer for their band. They looked surprised, and asked me... "Can you sing?" Well, DUH. I Mean, can't everybody?!?! I told them I surely could sing and how do I go about becoming their new lead singer. So they gave me a casette tape with four songs on it and told me to memorize the lyrics by friday night. Then meet them at the church where they rehearse.
So, you should know that memorization is generally no problem for me. There were two Tom Petty songs, a song by Rush and a song that I don't remember who it was sung by. I memorized all four by Friday. I still remember most of the lyrics. And, I actually just remembered the fourth song was by Tesla. But that's not important.
What was important was that I TOTALLY SUCKED. I was so terrified. OMG! So, so, so, so scared. It sent me into extreeme anxiety just to even walk onto the stage, let alone speak into the microphone. I froze. Often. I forgot the lyrics every two lines or so. I couldn't sing any louder than whisper quiet. I was afraid someone might hear me. Man it was awful. They tried every trick they could think of to relax me, give me every opportunity, hope the night wouldn't be a total loss. They asked me to sing songs I knew a bit better and they'd impprovise the music. I tried singing some INXS songs, but I blanked on all those lyrics too. In a last ditch effort they asked me to rap. I tried that too. No good. I officially sucked. Sucked bad. That part was significant.
I decided that I had learned an important lesson about reality. That certain things seem easy until you do them. And that not everyone was cut out to be on stage or speak into microphones. Singing should be left to the professions. Sure, you never know unless you try... but I had tried and failed miserably, and I could know forevermore that I had given my 15 minutes of fame a shot and was glad to have tried at and learned that it's just not what I was cut out for.
And oh what a difference 17 years makes.
Some of you know that I do a little rap thing now and again these days. I do performance poetry. On stages. In front of audiences. Sometimes into microphones. Not that I always need microphones cause I can get loud on my own. I remember a TON of lyrics. Kinda like lyrics on demand. And I've been having fun with that for a couple years now.
BUT... I hadn't really had any occasion to rap over live music before. I've always wanted to. But the opportunity never really arose.
Enter, Paul Z. He's a guitar guy at my church. He does an annual music service for our church. I've seen it once. It's good stuff.
So, I've been a member of the UU Church of Buffalo for about 4 years now. I've performed in my church for events that have been held there, but I've never actually been before the church to perform for the congregation or anything.
One special event held at my church --happened last summer-- was a benefit for the WNY Peace Center, and a bunch of people from my church were there and saw me do my thing. And Paul Z --who I knew a little bit because he had bought my book and talked about it with me a bit-- came up and reminded me that he does an annual thing performing for a sunday service and all that. He said "Let's do something with Hip Hop. Would you be interested?"
So, like, he was serious. And now all of a sudden there are these rehersals. And I'm rapping and everything... except now there's this band and stuff. And they're all really kick ass musicians. And last week was our first rehearsal, and today was our second, and both times we've really blown up the spot.
Usually, performing for me, it's all about the message. Someone gives me a microphone and an audience and I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to hit them with the most carefully considered lyrics I could come up with and infuse it with passion and hope with my most solemn hope that it will lead to someone thinking of something in some new way... inspire someone to do something, get active, start helping.
This feels kind of different. It feels much more like showing off. It's kind of like this... I've already written the lyrics. They are what they are. The message can't help but shine through. I can relax now. Not worry about that part. It's all taken care of. Instead, I can relax and feel the power of music cradling my voice. I feel very much like a modern day Michael Hutchence. I'll be rappin, like 'Damn! The kid is bringing the hot heat!'
If at first you don't succeed I guess. Y'know.
Thanks for listening.
The end, again.
The Church of Hip Hop will be happening at the UU church of Buffalo, 695 Elmwood (at West Ferry) on Sunday March 18th at 10:30am
Then in April I will be performing at the Lizzard Ball
And in June (probably) I will be performing at BeatFest 2007.