This past week our family hosted a couple of touring musicians that we got to know the year we lived in Brooklyn in 2005. They had contacted us a few weeks prior letting us know that they were doing two shows in Michigan including one in Grand Rapids. They were hoping to be able to set up an extra house show and find a place to stay. We offered to do the show in our home and provide them a place to stay. We made the face book event , cleaned the house and even talked one of our kids into giving up her room for the night.
All the preparations had been made and the night of the concert was upon us. Our band the Wealthy Orphans was ready -- we had practiced for the event. We welcomed our audience and introducing the band we launched into our first tune of the night. That's when it hit, panic! Complete terror seized my brain and just started kicking things around making a mess in my head. My hands were playing my guitar but my mind was blanking out but somehow the right words were coming out of my mouth just in time. This must be why we practice so much so when you are freezing up with fear and your pulse is racing somehow there is some other part of your brain that just over-rides all of this and keeps the show going. I was wondering if the little audience that had gathered in our home could tell I was choking. Was it obvious to them? As we finished the first verse and came around the corner into the second verse I could begin to feel my breath rate returning so something more close to normal. Now I was able to begin to live inside the music and notice smiling faces. We were doing it. We were actually sharing our music with our audience and starting to enjoy the process.
I have learned over the years that the presence of fear can actually be helpful to the performer. It is part of the fight or flight response carried over from the ancient evolutionary roots of our nervous system when we had to survive in wild and threatening natural environments. Feelings of fear signal the release of adrenalin into our blood stream. This is to the mind and body what fuel injection is to the car engine, passing gear to the transmission, warp speed to the space craft. With adrenalin released into your blood you are Clark Kent coming out of the phone booth and ready to fly. This is a special operating system that may include the anointing of the Holy Spirit making the ground under your feet holy. I have to remember all of this is temporary and I will be exhausted afterwards but it is worth it. The live concert regardless of the venue's size or legacy is potentially a very powerful experience for both the performer and the audience. When music shared in real time it is much different than listening to pandora on your smart phone. Live performance becomes the experiences that we sometimes carry with us for our entire life.