Thank you to everyone who came to my kitchen concert a couple of weekends back. It turned out to be a lot more of a challenge than I’d anticipated, but was great fun.
It was actually part social media experiment: I put out notices on Facebook, Twitter and the blog that I was going to do this “concert”, in which I would improvise guitar solos to songs nominated by anyone who was interested, uploading them to YouTube throughout the evening. I got a fantastic response from my friends on Facebook, who requested songs by Lady Gaga, Patrick Wolf and Duran Duran among others – although no response from anywhere else. (I suppose Facebook is what you might call the definition of a captive audience, more so than Twitter, probably, while the blog is not something that really gets followed in the same way, so I was neither surprised nor particularly bothered by this.)
I listened to each of the songs at least once before recording myself playing along, to get the key right and get a feel for the song, but apart from that wasn’t familiar with any of the songs, with only one exception (For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her, by Simon & Garfunkel). The process was: practice a bit offline; record a clip of myself playing along and play it back to check the volume levels; record the actual solo; listen to the whole thing to make sure it wasn’t awful; upload to YouTube; post to Facebook and Twitter. Then do it again with another song until I’d done as many as I could from those requested. I think I only re-recorded one or two solos; everything else was the first and only take, which is not showing off, just trying to be true to the idea of improvisation.
What I didn’t bank on, because I am stupid, was how long it would all take. As explained in my earlier post I recorded each performance on my iPhone, and as quick as that had seemed a few weeks back when I wasn’t doing a “live concert”, for my loyal friends on Facebook sitting there waiting for the next number it was probably like attending one of those dodgy early Dylan gigs where he’d spend 20 minutes just tuning up. The whole evening went on a lot later than I’d planned and by the last couple of songs at getting on for midnight I was really flagging. The energy levels weren’t helped by the fact that I’d done a full day’s housework before the gig in anticipation of the return the next day of my wife and kids, who had gone off on holiday in July. (I only mention this because I quite like the idea of having performed a whole evening’s music after doing somewhat more household chores that day than the average rock star.)
The biggest pleasure apart from getting so many requests in the first place was seeing that friends from all around the world were indeed “tuning in” and listening to what I was doing. I had first alerted my Facebook friends with a simple status update, and only the day before set the gig up as an event on Facebook and invited people because I wasn’t confident anyone would “come” (I usually find invitations to events on Facebook quite irritating), but in the end was delighted that over a dozen people sat through at least part of it. From my own (musical) perspective it was an extremely interesting exercise because it pushed me – the range of requests was very varied (I had made it clear that no style or genre was off-limits), and there were songs requested that normally I would barely have considered listening to, let alone play along to. All I can say is I am now much humbled by, and have much greater respect for, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.
All the videos from my kitchen gig can be found on my YouTube channel