I just got home from a special event in the life of a dear friend: my band’s bass player, Rodell. He just got married this afternoon in a very picturesque location, a colonial town called Taal, Batangas.
I’m very happy for my friend as he had finally found someone whom he’d be with for an entire lifetime. Big things and big changes are really going to go his way as he’s on the road to building his own family. Here’s a fancy shot of some people with the groom:
Here’s another fancy shot of our drummer, Archie, giving an impression of a despotic ruler of a third-world former Spanish colony with the groom:
And so Rodell’s wedding is the primary event of the day. This day is indeed a wonderful experience given that there were other things that happened.
Perhaps the next most important thing that happened is that we got to see Erick again. After a long, long time of being unable to respond to any of our messages, he finally showed up. I was mistaken that had lost any interest in our lives; it’s just that he was busy settling more immediate personal matters. For that I offer my apology for being rash about what I had previously thought of him. All that matters to me is that he’s happy and that he could rise above the challenges of a rather complex situation he is in, the details of which I’m at no liberty to disclose. Another thing is that he seems to be interested in playing with the band. If he could make the time, perhaps our band could be something like King Crimson: two drummers/percussionists similar to the kind of dynamic that Bill Bruford and Jamie Muir had during the “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” era. Would that happen any time soon? I wouldn’t know yet.
Third thing that happened is a realization of sorts. I would even say it’s a humbling experience. I finally was able to perform again in front of an audience, namely Rodell’s wedding guests. Prior to the wedding, I had been preparing a number of songs, a few of which were supposed to be sung by Pastor Chaz. Most of these were covers of songs from other artists and another one was an original composition called “promises”. This day confirmed my suspicions: I could only focus well on one musical task at a time. While I could consider myself competent behind the keys, playing piano and singing lead at the same time is something I wouldn’t consider doing again.
Pastor Chaz’s vocal performance with my piano accompaniment was good in my opinion. My solo performance, however, was utter crap. If I had just played some instrumentals, it would have been better. I should have shut my mouth. You see, “Promises” is a complex vocal and piano piece. It features really busy piano work with stride/march-style left hand accompaniment, right hand leads plus vocals. I tried doing all of them this evening and it was a mess.
Yesterday, I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to sing and that I wouldn’t get the chance to perform “Promises”. During rehearsals, Pastor Chaz was singing it, but he wasn’t confident enough to go through and perform it. Around that time, I thought the possibility of playing the song live was lost.
Moving on to the wedding reception, after having performed a song well with Pastor Chaz on vocals, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m not performing again that evening. That was until the emcee announced an event called a money dance i.e. some sort of waltz or sweet dance where guests begin sticking paper bills into the bride and groom’s clothing. The emcee called me out, to my surprise, and then Rodell started asking me to play “Promises”, a song I wrote as a wedding gift for them.
There were a few problems with this. “Promises” is not a waltz. Another thing is that the song originally had a virtuosic middle section with octaves, Phrygian scale runs, etc. which I conceived as a part of Rodell’s story during his time in the Middle East. Since I was put on the spot to perform it during the money dance, I wouldn’t sound right if I had played that crazy instrumental section.
And so, with no singer to sing “Promises”, I started to play and sing along. I was able to finish the song, improvised a somewhat generic sounding instrumental section that I thought would have been better for the money dance, and then play a couple of more improvisational passages just to keep the dance going until I got the signal from the emcee to end the set. Despite being able to complete the song, I knew very well that I messed up. It wasn’t the same piece I was rehearsing without the vocals. Maybe I should have just played a pure instrumental set for that money dance. I felt like a big joke afterwards.
Just as Pepe Manikan of Eternal Now fame told me some 12 years ago, I got to either stick with the keyboards or stick with vocals. This day’s performance mishap proves that he’s right. I was trying to do too much. I’m not impressed by my own voice (why o why did I get the idea to sing lead in the first place?) so perhaps it’s best to stick to my keyboards rather than try to do vocals, especially in a live setting.
Lesson learned? If I’m gonna do my best to revive the band, I better find a frontman/lead singer. Somehow, I’m imagining Pepe say, “I told you so.”
Despite stressing out myself and breaking into hives, I’m happy overall.