Random Thoughts from the First Weekend Playing at The ScareHouse
First thought: Wow, what a blast!
Actually, that’s my first thought now that it’s over. My first thought when we started playing on the first night was “What the hell am I doing!?!?” I’ve had that thought at several moments over the past few weeks preparing for this gig. It especially hit home while putting on my custom-made costume, which is pretty fab but includes a neon green fishnet top which, let me just say, has never been a part of my wardrobe prior to Friday night.
I’ve managed to be free of Impostor Syndrome for quite a while. Years, maybe. Then came my battle with Who The Hell Cares About What I’m Doing Syndrome. (“There are a million people out there on the internet making music and starving kids all over the world–what makes you feel like you’re so special, Delirium Boy?” That sort of thing.) The supportive atmosphere I found at The ScareHouse, as well as online and other friendly corners of my life, helped me greatly with this. But then the What The Hell Am I Doing Syndrome sneaks up on me and it feels like a proxy for all the previous syndromes combined. My wife reminded me that this is what happens quite often to every artist, and I think “oh yeah, I guess so” and try not to think about it any further.
Then the performance starts. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know what an odd type of “show” this is. It took a while for the first visitors to wind their way through the first haunt (“Foresaken”) and into Delirium, so starting early as we did was not necessary and the first 20 minutes was basically a holding pattern. No problem, I was still getting my bearings.
The “pulsing” of the groups that evening was strange. We started to see groups coming through, then there would be 5 or 10 minutes with nobody. I tried to time it so that we were not singing our hearts out to an empty room (more than half the songs contain some singing) and got better at extending or shortening sections of the songs as needed. I would use the spaces between groups to switch songs. Ableton Live cannot have two projects open at once, so I would cross-fade to a sound bed on my ipod for the 30 seconds or so it takes for me to open a new song.
What was difficult as a performer was getting any sense of reaction from the highly transient and distracted audience. This was easier Saturday night when there was a sold-out crowd and a more continuous stream of people. Great energy. It often felt like a real party at which new people were constantly were arriving and joining in. I never got tired of seeing people stumble in, a tad disoriented, take in the wacky surroundings and start to dance. One group appeared to be professional club-hoppers because they were dressed the part and could really dance. I was glad to see that the music worked for them.
With all the distractions, few people could actually see me, but some (and not just my brother) waved and acknowledged that they knew who I was. At 8ish, we were told that four Ghost Hunters would soon be passing through. I had a good groove going and didn’t want to risk stopping it just as they entered but ended up keeping the same tune going for over 20 minutes. I felt less guilty about that when closing time rolled around nearly seven hours after we started. That was a lot of time to fill, and somehow I did it without repeating any piece more than twice. Maybe it was a time warp. Perhaps we were abducted by aliens. Maybe the rest of the cast of Delirium are aliens. Who’s to say? The fact they didn’t want to kill me after many hours of sonic assault definitely raises my suspicions.
During the final hour, delirium was more than just a concept–it was our true state of mind. I was working a new high-energy piece that strings together dozens of variations of the Amen Break with sound effects, rhythmic bird chirps, deep bass hooks, and other bits of randomness. (You may not realize it, but the Amen Break is etched into your sonic memory in a way that forces you to want to dance.) Thinking that closing time must be just a few minutes away, I must have kept that going for 45 minutes–adding different effects to extend the sounds and slowly boosting the beats per minute to keep people from falling asleep. I searched my hard drive for more sounds to throw in, but I’ve kept the performance computer lean. Too lean, apparently. Next weekend, I’ll be better prepared.