Playing solo jobs gives me the shits.
I don’t know if I’m particular in that way, but my specific kind of stage fright just seems to come out (*ahem*) that way. It’s not a general performance thing, because striking up with the rest of the band doesn’t really do it for me. And it’s not a matter of practice (although believe me, I need the practice).
It doesn’t matter how well I know a tune, the simple act of playing solo is enough to twist me up mentally. Why? Consider this: I don’t compete, so the only times I’m playing solo are for funerals or weddings. The only times a Scotsman washes his kilt. Somber times. Important times. And times where, if you make a mistake, it’s probably going to be remembered.
Sure, a bride might be overwhelmed with joy to recall a few missed notes. And sure, the family of the deceased might be overwhelmed with grief to remember that squeaky chanter. And most assuredly, the great majority of people who are listening are probably tone deaf, music illiterate, or have no earthly idea what pipes are supposed to sound like. But that’s not the point.
There’s also no warming up. I mean, you warm up, but then usually you stand there, and stand there, and wait, and wait, (and if it’s a wedding surprise, and you had to warm up around the corner and down the hall, and then you’re hiding in a broom closet) and wait some more, then suddenly it’s your turn, and all eyes are on you, and the people are just waiting, breathless, steeped in their memories, their happiness or sorrow, anticipating the next sound to come out of your instrument and you, and there’s no way to subtly sneak in an intro, it’s just you crashing into the silence, and it better be good, because if it’s not, there’s no way you can walk out of there with your head held up high, and you better do something quick, because they’re still waiting, and now are you flat from sitting and waiting so long, and how is that new reed you had to break out because you ran over your best, most trustworthy reed in the parking lot, and who does that, I mean really, what are the chances, and you can feel the flop sweat dripping down your sides as your hands start to move, and now you’re committed, and you were 100% sure you could do it when you woke up this morning, and now you’re at 90%, but that 10% is growing bigger and bigger, and everybody is still eyeing you up, except that guy in the corner is giving you the hairy eyeball now, and the bride has a quizzical look on her face, you have yet to play a note and your breathing is already short, and now here comes the sound........
People tell me all the time that the bagpipes make them cry.