Halfway through my cheeseburger, I realized, that’s enough: you’re about to go on. My fellow neighborhood Memorial Day picnickers were starting on their desserts and coffee in the community clubhouse as Rick leaned in my ear. “Take your time,” he said, “we’ll be downstairs checking.” I nodded. “Be there in a minute,” I said.
I had a couple of bites of fruit salad and stopped by the ladies’ room to brush my teeth, check my hair, and fire up a panic attack. I was alone. I stared at myself in the mirror and heard someone — was that my voice?
All right, sweetie, it’s show time, so listen up. You’re still thinking you’re not good enough. Stop it. You’ve outgrown that. You’ve done the work. Your band is ready. No, you’re not a 25-year old Linda Ronstadt. You’re not Glenn Frey. But nobody is. And nobody expects you to be. Just be you. Now go play your music.
The face in the mirror was calm. She reassured me. I brushed my hair, set my headband, and marched downstairs.
People started taking their seats in front of the band. Before dinner we ran a full sound check, so there was little left to do. I switched on the lamp on my music stand and laid the set list on the floor at the pedalboard. I laughed at myself, thinking, “I’m not going to look at that, but it’s what they do on Austin City Limits. So there.” I pulled my Strat around me, checked the tuner, high-fived my band mates, and perched on my stool.
I watched as my neighbors, thirty or so, took in the sight before them: five amps, a Bose tower PA, an eight member band and a tangle of cables where they normally find yoga mats. I saw some familiar faces and smiled back. Where were the nerves? This is when you always get the shakes, isn’t it? I turned around: Ron on lead guitar, Henry on lead vocals, Joe on alto horn, Chet on drums, Ray on Fender bass, Pete on tenor sax, and Rick on keyboards. My guys. Pros. We’ve got each other’s back. My leg refused to twitch.
We led off with a tribute to the services, a medley of their marches and anthems. Then a few patriotic tunes, and solemnly, “Taps”, from Joe’s horn. A respectful pause.
I switched to my acoustic amid an awkward silence. I pulled up my microphone. “Hey, everyone,” I announced, “what do you say we rock for a while?” “Yeah!” they shouted. “Well, then,” I said, turning to Chet, “Let’s go!” Click - click - click - click —
We kicked in. Ron nailed the lick. I leaned into the mic. Was that my voice?
Well, I’m a-runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load...