I got the email on a Saturday (exactly one week before the gig), asking if I knew anyone, myself included, who’d be able to play bass with a band on very short notice. The next day I practiced the first set. Monday I practiced the second set. The rest of the week I worked on getting very familiar with all the songs.
Strangely, I had a lot of anxiety about doing this show. Some of you are aware that I suffered a stroke last July and this was one of the first big steps I’d taken toward getting my life back to a more “normal” state. Yes, I’d been teaching privately and also leading a few group classes during the fall. I’d even sat in with the Berkshire Ukulele Band (or “BUB,” if you will) just three weeks after getting back from the hospital! And the big FODFest show in October. And the open mic at the Barn numerous times. And providing backup for my friend Erika’s students in December at the local holiday market Each gig turned out to be a bigger step than the next. January’s holiday market turned out to be just Erika, Karen, and myself.
Back to the Barn Owls’ gig, I had a week to learn about twenty new songs (and the ones I knew I’d not played on bass before!) and would be standing for several hours. This also included practicing my harmonies, which I don’t get much of a chance to do at home on my own. One can get very self-conscious, just singing with the headphones on and totally oblivious to whatever’s going on in the rest of the house.
Anyway, about four hours before the 8 PM start of the gig, we all got together for a sound check and last minute rehearsal of the songs we thought still need work. It took close to an hour to set up the stage; we spent an additional hour tweaking arrangements. I went home to have a quick bite to eat and got back just before 7:30.
And then we played…
Things went very well. Folks were dancing (which is something one doesn’t usually see in Egremont!) and everyone, band and audience, enjoyed themselves immensely.
And I was enjoying myself, too, until Mark, who was playing keyboards, looked my way with a big smile and shouted “Bass solo!” towards the end of the first set. I shook him off, much like a pitcher does when he doesn’t agree with the pitch that the catcher requested.
Now, there was one thing that I’d forgotten I’d learned – when taking a “bass solo” you can simply play what you’ve been playing all along! Because everyone else is being quiet, it’s very likely the first time that the audience can hear what you’re playing. So don’t panic and try to show off. Just keep cool and play what you’ve been playing, especially if you managed to come up with a very cool bass line in the first place.
Fortunately, I remembered this before the start of the second set, and sure enough, during the very first song (a blues song I’d never heard before and that the group didn’t practice at all during the week leading up to the gig), Mark looked my way and yelled “Bass solo!” one more time and I took it in stride.
All in all it turned out to be a great night and I hope we get to do it again soon. I’m truly looking forward to playing and teaching throughout 2017.