To Play Live Is To Fly

I know I need to watch myself but…

A nice guy named Dan Gross did the sound and filmed my show at Bop Shop in Rochester last month and he sent me a link to watch the performance and approve it if okay. They’d like to post it on their website – but there’s always something I would rather be doing than watching myself.

It’s hard enough doing these solo shows – you’re alone up there: vulnerable, exposed – but to have to relive it? To sit and watch? Oh my god, I should do something with my hair…why do I have to nod so much? What happened to the rhythm there? Lord I’d better lay off the burgers and fries – forever. And on and on.

Or I could take the approach of a coach, go all Chuck Noll with a grease pencil on the screen: “see that move there? Once, twice – okay. But you do it enough that we’re in nervous tic territory here.” And “do you call that long meandering aside a story? Focus, Rigby, focus!”

The beauty of playing is that time goes away; self-consciousness too. Unlike a record that is meant to be scrutinized, a live show is a pact you make with the audience – what happens between you takes you somewhere together and if it works, you don’t even remember how it happened.

Remember how Townes sang “To Live Is To Fly”? To play live is to fly, except for the parts where your undercarriage is bouncing all over the tarmac.

So there was always something I’d rather be doing than checking out this video.

Like looking for the stove in my stylish Nashville Airbnb. They’ve got a little record player and a cute door mat that says “Hey Y’all!” and old posters of the town. But where’s the stove?

Then I’d rather play a show at Dee’s Country Lounge. And another at the Bluebird. I’d rather meet up with friends for coffee. I’d rather drop by the local radio station – when did Nashville get a cool community radio station? I’d rather love Nashville than look at myself.

Dan from the Bop Shop checks in – have I watched the video yet? I started watching and aside from wishing I’d had time to do something with my hair that’s kind of scraggly what with the humidity and the driving and fluctuating hormones, I remembered how much I’d enjoyed the show and that feeling was coming through in the clip. I even got teary during a song, just like I’d felt when I was playing. I promised him I’d get to the rest of it.

But first I needed to drive across half of Tennessee and through the mountains of North Carolina and play another show in Chapel Hill. And then I needed to drive back home but first I had to stop for the night somewhere outside Baltimore. A comfy hotel room and an evening to myself – the perfect opportunity to watch the rest of my performance (or at least enough where I could say oh fuck it, it’s fine, you have my blessing Dan!) but – hey, is that Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore in a movie from the nineties? I’d better watch that and – wait, isn’t that Diane Lane in Under The Tuscan Sun? Sure I’ve seen it four times but…I promise myself I’ll get back on it and finish watching the video, just as soon as I get back home.

But there’s one day to unload the car and then it’s time to head to England. And when I’m hanging out at our friends in Norfolk for a day, and Philip Roth just died and the arts editor of the Guardian asked me to write something about a favorite Roth book and I try to get out of it because they’ll have actual book writers writing, and then it takes hours while trying to make sense of Jumanji with my goddaughter Daisy, and then the next day I need to get to London to see Eric play a sold out show at the 100 Club, and the next day drive to Colchester and then Ramsgate and then the Leicester shows with him. And then there’s one day left to visit his mother in her new care home and his grandkids in the countryside and finally in some hotel late at night I fast forward through to the end of video and say “looks and sounds fine”. And now it’s up there.

And maybe someday when I have time, and even thinner hair and feel even less in shape, and need a music stand with lyrics on it because I can’t remember anything, and might even need to sit on a stool for part of the show because I’m eighty, maybe then I’ll really watch it and think hey I almost knew what I was doing.

Come along and help me make it happen:

  • Thu Jun 7      Catskill NY              HiLo   8 pm
  • Sat Jun 9        New York NY         Berlin 9 pm  (Felice Rosser opens)  tickets
  • Sun Jun 10     Baltimore MD       An Die Musik  Roots Cafe w/Geoffrey Himes  5 pm
  • Sat Jun 16      Ojai CA                    Rain Perry’s house email for info
  • Sun Jun 17     Los Angeles CA     Wild Honey concert  (w/Seven Deadly Five) 4 – 7 pm
  • Thu Jun 21    San Francisco CA  Hemlock Tavern (Tino Drima opens) tickets
  • Fri Jun 22      Chico CA                  house concert
  • Sun Jun 24     Santa Cruz CA        Michael’s on Main (Alex Lucero opens)  2 pm tickets


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