Gwnewch y pethau bychain

When You’re Up On The Stage, It’s So Unbelievable

Between 2005 and 2009, I didn’t play a lot of music in public. It wasn’t a decision I made to withdraw from the stage. It started because of struggles with depression that caused me to withdraw from a lot of social spheres, and then after I came out the other side of that particular emotional valley, I just…didn’t. No one was asking me if I wanted to, and I wasn’t volunteering, and the longer it went on, the more it just became…normal. This wasn’t just not doing concert sets or one shots; many have noted that I absented myself from open filk, preferring instead to spend my con time socialising or lurking around the edges.

The last couple of years, I’ve been making an effort to get back to playing public, because…I enjoy it. So I’ve made an effort at cons to make itto at least a little bit of open filk, if only to justify having brought my guitar. And when [ profile] mrgoodwraith asked me at OVFF a couple of yearsago if I’d like to come play a short set at Confluence in 2011, I eagerly agreed. Unfortunately, just before I was to book my flight, [ profile] kitanzi unexpectedly lost her job, and I couldn’t justify the expense. Randy understood, and extended an invitation to come up in 2012 instead.

So in July, I made my first visit to Pennsylvania to attend Confluence, hang out with seanan_mcguire and museinred, and…oh yeah, do a concert.

I have no idea how it went. I’m told it went well. Here’s the set list, made up almost entirely of covers because I’m woefully unpractised onsongs I wrote myself:

  1. Let The Day Begin (Michael Bean)
    This 1989 song by the band The Call has long been a favourite of mine. Since my concert was the first of the day, I figured I’d openwith an uptempo invocation.
  2. Ceci N’est Pas Un Chanson (Dave Rood ([ profile] surrdave))Dave wrote this song back when everyone on #filkhaven was playing an online band simulation game, and it’s long been one of my favourite songs of his. I particularly like his recent rewrite of the last verse, and I play this song any chance I get.
  3. Wisteria (Richard Shindell)

    [ profile] the_gwenzilliad introduced me to Richard Shindell many years ago, and I cover a lot of his songs. I probably wouldn’t make a setlist without including at least one of his. This song in particular has become one of my favourites, with its themes of memory and loss and its wonderful imagery.
  4. Year Of The Cat (Al Stewart)
    A love the story in this song, and I love the lyrical turns of the poetry in the verses. One day, I want to do with this with a whole band so we can do the full 7 minute instrumental outro, because boy that’s tasty.
  5. 52 Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thompson)
    For all the redheads in the audience, and all the bikers in the audience, but most importantly, for all the redheaded bikers in theaudience.
  6. Guinevere (Robin Batteau)
    Another song I learned from Gwen, and another song I never get tired of playing. It makes me think, fondly, of a great love of mine that can never be realised, though I will never lose my passion for her.
  7. Long Distance Love (Seanan McGuire/Rob Wynne)
    The only song in the set I had a hand in writing. Seanan wrote the words to this as part of her Iron Poet challenges, in response to three words I had given her. I asked her if it was intended as a song, because it felt like one to me, and she said no, it was just a poem. I then asked her if she’d mind if I set it to music. It describes long-distance relationships in a way I needed words for, and it is forever close to my heart.
  8. Space (Ben Wakeman)
    Ben Wakeman is an awesome Atlanta-area singer/songwriter, and I love a lot of his work. This song’s meditation on the need to get away from the chaos of modern life resonates with me a lot.

(Bonus: The soundcheck was “Dragging the Line” by Tommy James, because Pete said “Play something” and it was the first thing that popped into my head. Due to an uncooperative sound system, I actually played the entire song before I got the wave that he was ready. *grin* Nothing quite like being the first act of the day. Pete’s a great sound guy, though. I was glad to have him at the board.)

Normally, I am not enthusiastic about recordings of myself, because all I do is wince at all the mistakes and imperfections, but I do kinda wish someone had videotaped my performance, because I’ll never know what [ profile] judifilksign was doing just behind me, and that’s a bit sad because I love to watch her sign.

The rest of the con was mostly spent hanging out, attending panels here and there, and generally relaxing at a quality convention I’d never attended before. Something tells me I will attend it again. (Special treat was meeting [ profile] moonbeamjedi, who I have known for 20 years online but never met in person. We only got to sit and talk for a little while, but it was a pleasure to finally collect a RL hug.)

Not much more than a month later was Dragon*Con, a convention I’ve largely avoided for the last several years. Not that DragonCon isn’t a good convention, but it’s a lot more than I typically want to deal with. This year, however, I’d decided to go, in part because a lot of my podcasting friends were goign to be there, but also because the folks running the filk track at Dragon*Con have been doing a stellar job the last few years, and they’ve been really supportive of Gafilk, so I wanted to give them some support in return.

A couple of days before the convention, I got an email from Pat, one of the organisers. She told me that due to an unfortunate family situation, one of their scheduled performers had to drop out, and would I be willing to split an hour with [ profile] thatcrazycajun to fill the hole in the concert schedule. “Sure!” I said, and then hastily threw together a new set list. (Was I smart, scavenging from the set list I’d already prepared for the previous con? Of course not!)

The Dragon*Con set list was also made up of covers, but I decided I would play an entirely different set of music, because I lack sense.

  1. Happytown (Dave Carter)
    Another up-tempo song to kick the set off, by another fantastic songwriter I like to steal from. Daniel & Melissa Glasser introduced me (and most of the rest of filk) to this great artist, and I have a number of his songs in my book. This is one I particularly like the message of.
  2. Beeswing (Richard Thompson)
    Twelve years ago, Gwen was driving me home from a housefilk, and she popped a tape into the tape deck and said “You should sing this song.” I was already long-familiar with Thompson and vaguely aware of this song, but I listened intently to it and I fell in love with it. As a bonus, it’s the sort of song that might get you followed home if you’re not careful (and I rarely am, because what fun would that be?)
  3. You Stay Here (Richard Shindell)
    Another Shindell song, with a creepy story that’s told largely between the lines. I love watching people listen to this song for the first time, as they slowly realise what’s going on in the lyric.
  4. Harbouring Hopes (Talis Kimberley)
    The first time I heard this song, at the end of the Archetype Cafe album, it struck me like a dagger to the heart. I cannot begin to describe the way it resonated. Thankfully, it is no longer applicable to my life, though it still sympathetically vibrates along a strand of memory that will be with me always. I can always tell how well I’ve pulled this one off by how long the audible silence lasts before the audience lets itself react. Powerful stuff.
  5. You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
    This wasn’t originally on the set list. But I was running a little ahead of time (mostly due to having criminally rushed a couple of the early songs in an odd attack of nerves), so I pulled this out of my hat. I picked it largely because it was in the same capo position as Harbouring Hopes in the key I play them both in.)
  6. Lullabye In Twelve Nursary Rhymes (Adam Selzer ([ profile] adamselzer))One of several Adam Selzer songs I adopted after he moved to Chicago, and probably my favourite. It makes a great closer or end-of-night song, and it never fails to go over well. I miss Adam.

I never did get to spend the time I wanted with my podcasting friends, but I had a great time with the filk track folks. I also participated in the “What Is Filk” track along with filkertom and Marc Gunn, which included my playing my Firefly song (set to the tune of “Kenworth of My Dreams” by Richard Shindell, which i really should post here because I don’t think I ever did, and I led an Insta-filk workshop (along with Marc Gunn and Matt Leger) that produced a pretty good parody that I will also post here in coming days.

Unfortunately, Dragon*Con still has the problem I always have with it, which is that it’s just too darn big, and I always get to the end of it feeling like I missed *everything*. Given that I’m a massive introvert and need time to recharge after dealing with that many people, I spent a lot more time in my hotel room than I’d have liked, but we had a great time anyway, and we might even attend again some year. Thanks to the Dragon*con filk track folks for having me out!

And those are the summer conventions. I hope to spend some time actually playing some music at OVFF in October. See you there!


Jackie sits back, collects his thoughts for the moment…


Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes…


  1. *follows you home*

  2. I think Talis tries not to tie her personal LJ to her name in public, and this post is unlocked…

  3. Kaypo is here with me at the cottage!

  4. I’m glad to hear you’re playing. I wish I could have heard you. You know, your posts are the ones most likely to start me googling? Couldn’t find them all but was interested reading what I could.

  5. I loved signing your set. I hadn’t ever really heard you play before, and I liked it very much.

    Look forward to seeing you next month at OVFF!

  6. What you’ve gone through is completely understandable. And I’ve gone through similar experiences. Between depression, job hunting, health issues, and the constant task of decluttering, my music has been put on the back burner. Add to that a local-to-regional fan base that (in my opinion) has become indifferent to me, and a chosen few that I either got burnt out on, or can’t tolerate their extreme position on politics.

    I’m planning to be at OVFF, but only for Friday and Saturday. I’ll be with my daughter on Sunday, so that her mom can get some alone time.

  7. It’s good to see you posting, and I’m glad you’re out of that valley. Since that was while I was deployed, depressed myself, and really missing filk & fen, it was especially thoughtful of you to post those GaFilk concerts so I could download them back then.

    BTW, the last house filk but one, I think, you infected me with that darn “Spring Break” earworm, so I finally cadged the lyrics off ThatCrazyCajun. (It didn’t help that “Rimini” was bugging me after reading a lot of swords ‘n’ sandals by Lindsey Davis.)

    Maybe we can get to OVFF to cheer you on with the other GaFiAnikim.

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