Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Star is Born!

A short (true) story about one girl (me) and her wild, stab-in-the-dark attempt at starting a music career.

So, a few months ago at Karaoke night in the Village, I was getting off the stage after doing Blondie’s “Call Me” when a woman approached me. “That was great! Are you a singer?” Being drunk (as is the norm at karaoke-related events) I replied, “I am yeah!!”

Then I realised she was serious. “Well, no, I’m not. I just love Karaoke!” “Well, you SHOULD be,” she said, “I’m a producer and I think you’re very talented!” Then she gave me her email address and told me to let her know if I ever chanced writing a song.

I couldn’t believe it! Now, prior to this I’d never really been the type to dream of being a singer. Well, obviously I wouldn’t have minded the money, but it wasn’t something I ever thought about. I know loads of people dream of it – but I was Karaoke queen and that’s all I wanted to be! I loved singing, but it’s not a “real” choice, is it? Not for me. But that comment, and the few emails we exchanged afterwards, lit a fire.

I put my name down for a singer-songwriter/comedian open-mic night on March 18th in the Ha’penny Bridge Inn, Temple Bar; an event called “the Battle of the Axe.” Seeing as it was MILES in the future I thought; how hard can it be to throw two songs together? I’ve always loved writing, I love singing, and any idiot can rhyme. Also, I used to play piano so think I have a fairly “ok” ear for music.

Aaaand the weeks went by and I kept putting off practicing. I was busy, and forgot about it, and played every once in a while and had two songs in mind – one finished, one that wouldn’t work out no matter how I tried. But I was sure it’d be fine!

I decided I’d pick up the guitar again. I’d only ever played for like a year, and had never been very good, but hey, I have WEEKS before the show, right? But when the 18th came I didn’t feel very ready at all! And, luckily, I ended up going to Connemara that week on a college-funded trip. So I postponed. The new date? April Fool’s Day. (How appropriate...)

So, the big night arrives. My brother came up from Cork to see me. A bunch of friends from my drama group came too. So did Fiona, one of my best friends, and Eanna, my boyfriend at the time. I had quite a nice fan-base even before I started – great!

Well... Alright. I’ll start by saying it was a lot of fun, and went well, but not quite in the way I’d planned!

On arrival I was told I’d be the first act of the second half – excellent! I had time to get some Dutch Courage into me! So I headed straight for the bar... and dropped my first drink immediately after pouring the redbull into the vodka. Shite! My hands were shaking with nerves. A friend bought me a replacement, which I made quick work of. I was dying for it to be over and playing the chords in my head – don’t forget the order they go in! Don’t forget the words!!

There were a bunch of stand-up comedians and some really amazing musicians in the first half. Oh no... BUT I assured myself I’d be fine – for the previous three days I’d done a lot of practice, grown a few blisters on my fingertips (from the guitar) and, besides, I had the chords all written down on a tiny piece of paper which I safety-pinned to my knee. What could possibly go wrong!?

The musician who ended the first half – who was very talented – helped me tune my guitar and gave me some words of encouragement. He even promised to buy me a drink afterwards, which cheered me up immediately!

So, they called my name. I got on stage, bringing a chair with me (because if I’d been standing up I wouldn’t have been able to read the notes on my knee!) The place was packed. And everyone was bloody looking at me!!! I introduced myself, and then froze. I was nervous, my hands were the only things that weren’t frozen – they were shaking!! – and, for what felt like forever, I sat there like a rabbit in headlights. Then I started laughing at myself. “Sorry, I’m a little nervous. I don’t often do this sort of thing, or, like, NEVER.” Dead silence – oh no!! Say something else!!

“Am... as you can see, I’m more of a sit-down comedian!” Silence. Ouch. “Sorry that was awful,” I muttered, “stick to the music Aoife... leave that to the real comics...” I got a laugh for that one. Hallelujah! Then I said “ok, sorry, just a sec – I’ve the chords written here in case I forget...” They noticed my little cheat-sheet and roared laughing. I thanked God that I could feel the vodka going to my head (Just in time!), I took a deep breath, and began.

I sounded really good! Until, around three bars in, I fucked up. Bigtime. I tried to pull it together but panicked, my hand slipped, and the guitar made a painful “waoarrrrrrrrrr” noise. I stopped, laughed nervously, went scarlet and said “Ok, sorry, I can’t do this... Thanks very much, I don’t know what I was thinking!” and I went to get off the stage... Suddenly, the whole audience started shouting at me!

“No! Come on, you can do it! We wanna hear the rest! Finish the song!” I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t stop laughing but said “Ok I’ll give it another go!”

So, this is the part in the movie where the hero takes a deep breath, and, encouraged by the audience, wows them with a perfectly-performed piece of music. Then she gets carried out of the pub on the shoulders of a cheering crowd, holding her trophy high above her head, and the credits roll up and it's all happy ever after...

That didn't happen!

I started again, with a newfound energy, newfound talent! Within seconds I’d f**ked up again and said, "Wait, shit, that's not a chord!" and, thank God, they all laughed. I said, "You know what, i think you've heard enough of that song. I know the other one a little better so let's move on!!" so they cheered and I was just about to start playing, when I realised, “Oh shit, I haven’t been using a plec!” I honestly hadn’t realised.! A cooler person would have subtly found one and pretended it was all intentional to play the first song with her fingernails, but no, not me! I muttered some lame apologies, they fell around the place laughing, and eventually, when I found one, I started into the second song.

There were some faulty chords and I pulled quite a few "oops" faces but my voice sounded good and I managed to get half way before I forgot what came next. I stopped to look at my cheat-sheet and go "aaam," and they all started applauding and whistling and cheering – thinking I was finished! The vodka had taken a firm hold by now and I brazenly shouted into the mic “Hey! Wait wait wait! That’s not the end! There’s more! Let me just check here...” and off I went again! I played right to the end... well, ALMOST. And it was terrible but I was shaking – with laughter this time – and figured I should quit while I still had SOME dignity!

After a (very generous) round of applause I said, "Thanks very much! That didn't exactly go as I'd planned but I hope you enjoyed it! And I hope the next person up here has some actual talent!"

I left the stage in a fit of giggles, barely able to breathe from laughter and shame. With my head down I made my way over to my brother, who gave me a hug. And I decided I really, really, really needed a cigarette!

Later, after having countless people coming up to congratulate me “for trying and for being the funniest act all night!” they decided to announce the winner. The audience had to vote, by cheering, and when the MC announced that it was between me and two of the comedians I said (quite loudly, thanks to the numerous pints my fans had bought me) “What?! Are you kidding me?!”

They screamed and clapped and whistled and cheered for me, and I actually freaking WON! I couldn't believe it and I walked up on stage, my eyes streaming from laughing so hard. I took the mic and just kinda said something like, "Uhm, thanks but I can't say I agree with yer choice!! I promise I won’t be back!" Then some lads down the back started shouting "Encore! Encore!"

You MUST be joking! I accepted my certificate and “Lucky Duck” award (which is usually just a yellow toy duck but, that night, they couldn’t get one and got a plastic dinosaur instead. Go figure.)

There were actually some really, really talented musicians and HILARIOUS comedians performing that night – and if I’d have performed properly I probably wouldn’t have stood a CHANCE!

Loads of people, including the MC, the organisers, and the other musicians, told me they’d love me to come back and play again.

Yeah right!