Dan and Dirk Cyndy and I were in the folk club when we were in high school. It was where we first became friends, actually. As you would imagine, we played folk music, usually some of the most popular songs at the time. We would play at malls during the holidays and perform in an assembly for the entire school. We also held “coffee house” shows a couple of times a year. They were shows in one of the portable buildings in the evening so parents could attend.

The pictures are from my senior annual and is from one of the coffee houses. I am on the left and Dirk Hardy is on the right. The stage was a riser from the gym or the auditorium. When I thought about writing this post, I knew about the picture of me, but I didn’t remember that Dirk’s picture was next to mine. And this post is as much about him as it is me.

The song I was playing when the picture was taken was Okie from Muskogee, with a couple of alternate phrasings thrown in. The guitar was the one I bought with the insurance after our house burned. I may still have the shirt in a box somewhere. I know I wore it several years after Cyndy and I were married in ‘92.

When Dirk got up to do his song, he sat on the stool you can see to the right of him. He settled in the stool and leaned toward the mic. He started to talk, but, unfortunately, the back legs of the stool slipped off the back of the riser. The stool, Dirk, and his guitar fell off the stage – pretty much in that order.

Dirk was holding his guitar up above him until he figured out how to get up without scratching his guitar. When he got back up on the riser, he opted for standing up. The song he played was Sweet Misery. It happened so perfectly it seemed almost staged – even to me and I was in the show. But I knew Dirk wouldn’t take a chance on scratching his guitar on purpose.

I’ve never forgotten that incident – it is actually the only thing I remember about the evening. Except, of course, for the song I played. But the shows we did with the folk club taught me a few things about live shows.

When you are playing a live show, you have to see it as an adventure. “It’s all part of the show.” And you have to treat it that way. “Go with the flow,” as we used to say. There are always forgotten lyrics, missed licks, and stumbles. But if you act like it was part of the show, few people will remember.

While I said that the shows taught me a few things, I did not say they all sunk in at the time. I played shows for several years in which I would screw up a verse of a song and actually apologize to the audience when the song was over. Fortunately, I didn’t screw up too much, but I kept apologizing, until it finally dawned on me that the audience probably had no idea that I made a mistake.

If you don’t act like you screwed up a song, chances are the audience will never know it. Particularly if they have never heard the song. If they have heard the song, they’ll just think it’s your current spin on it.

Peace be with you.

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