Victory! Sweet, sweet, blueberry victory!
In other news: last night i played guitar for what has become a routine four hours, breaking only for the penultimate episode of Buffy and white pizza courtesy of Ross’s new credit card. This morning the skin on my fingers is rind-like and impervious to pain.
You could say that i’ve become a little obsessed with my practice regimen, ostensibly because i’m playing at a backyard festival this weekend and have vowed in public earshot to blow away all of the other performers. Really, though, it’s because i don’t know if i actually can. The recently revealed running order of the event finds me sandwiched between a duo of golden-throated music majors and a terrific a cappella group that i arrange for, with the entire day both book-ended and dotted by talented multi-instrumentalists and Philly pub performers. And in the middle is little old me.
At this late stage drilling finger exercises until i feel as though i’m going to vomit if i have to stretch my pinky to the seventh fret again probably isn’t going to do me much good, which is why i typically leave that until just before bed. The regimen begins as soon as i have stripped out of my corporate skin of shirt and tie, sometimes finding me strumming the opening chords of “Tangling” in an undershirt and low rise briefs. The run through the current iteration of my set quickly (and seemingly inevitably) descends into seething about my inability to pick complex patterns or endless fiddling with my amp tone, and rarely features more than a single complete song. Alternately, i could probably just look in a mirror and scream “you are worthless” for thirty minutes to achieve a similar effect on moral.
After this inevitably crushing warm-up routine, i turn to my Bible, The Complete Beatles Scores. What better comfort could there be to my inability to play my own misbegotten songs than to learn how to play some of the best songs ever written? Last night was a medley of Let It Be‘s A-Side, none of which i can carry all on my own. Still, the practice is useful because i am trying to match a specifically scored and recorded sound rather than some elusive cipher of a rhythm that only plays inside of my head.
After a solid run at the Beatles (always including thirty minutes on the riffing of “Dig A Pony” and at least two renditions of “Blackbird“) I am ready to perform my own set, minus the sniffling and whining. Or, rather, the sniffling and whining is restrained only to lyrical appearances. This set is typically much more affirming, though as a rule “Apart” sounds like utter shit. “Under My Skin” is placed strategically dead in the middle to remind myself that, yes, i can actually (write / play / sing) with some modicum of professionalism on a consistent basis. This is necessary, as my shot at “Seams” typically breaks down shortly after the key change.
I end with “Little Love,” because for a month i had intended to start with it and so bootstrapped it up past all of the intermediate levels of (total shit / shit / lyrical Alzheimer’s / inability to cross bridge / endless descent into ad-lib and riffing / constant Simon-Cowell-ing of vocal performance) to the point where i spent an entire hour last week walking around Center City with a guitar strapped on over my shirt and tie playing it and being asked my name and if i could be heard at any local bars or pubs. It isn’t “Under My Skin,” but it allows me to ignore (or, at least atone for) the two dozen false starts of “Apart” from earlier in the evening. It allows me to believe for a second that the forty or so friends that will be enduring me for a precious half hour on Saturday will perhaps clap out of something other than obligation.
Only after that do i brutally work my pinky fingers until my stomach knots with each effort. And then, sometimes, i go to bed.