The exhilaration of performing in front of an audience simply couldn’t compare to anything else.
Nothing about the environment was perfect. There was no Rockstar lighting or fog machines, no jumbotrons or backup dancers, no backing band or DJ.
It was just my friend and I and two microphones delivering a rap at a youth camp talent show. And as we finished the rap, walked off the stage and out the front door (as we had planned to do), the sound of cheering and applause could still be heard outside.
What makes the experience comical is the fact that the song we performed was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Twister” – basically his take on The Beastie Boys (not parodying any song specifically). And it’s not as though my friend and I were professional rappers. We just liked to write rhymes and freestyle in our spare time.
It didn’t matter that there wasn’t anything fancy about the performance or setting. In that moment, I had a newfound sense of what I wanted to do in life – I wanted to play music and perform for audiences everywhere!
Music had always been a part of my life. And I was a bit of a critic, even as a child.
One time, I remember sitting in a car listening to my dad’s music going, “I wonder why the band chose to write such bland music? They could have made it catchy.”
I actually liked most of my dad’s and mom’s music, whether it was “Weird Al” Yankovic, Daniel Amos, Stryper, Idle Cure, Chicago, The Nylons, or otherwise.
And, in Japan, I listened to a lot of J-Pop and J-Rock too. CHAGE&ASKA and B’z were my favorites, but bands like Bakufu Slump, Luna Sea, and Wands were also great.
Video games also had such great music. I was so impressed by the soundtracks for Dragon Quest V, Final Fantasy VI, Seiken Densetsu 2, and the Mega Man series. I’d often find myself humming the tunes to myself in school (while putting things on paper).
I didn’t have much interest in playing music early on. But as most grade schoolers do, I had to learn the harmonica, triangle, and eventually recorder.
I never wanted to play the triangle though. I wanted to play the big Taiko drum. I never got the chance to do that and I suspect it may have had something to do with being only one of two Canadian kids in school (the other was my sister).
Eventually, I did start banging on the piano, making what I thought was “music”. But it would be many years before I even considered learning an instrument.
And when I finally started learning to play guitar, I would soon discover how challenging it could be to write “great music”, which was a subjective concept to begin with.
My band was about to take the stage. Show the audience what real music was all about. None of that boring hymnal, 7-11 worship music.
But our singer was missing. We had no idea where he was.
By the time he had shown up, it was a little too late. The talent show was about to wrap up. Apparently, he had fallen asleep and couldn’t get up. He said he suddenly started feeling sleepy for no reason.
Before I knew it, my drummer and signer – who never got along all that well – started going at it.
“This was our chance! You blew it!” Screamed the drummer, pushing the singer.
“I couldn’t help it! I didn’t mean to fall asleep!” Screamed the singer, pushing back.
That was the end of that band.
There was something vaguely familiar about this moment. Tragic loss. For some reason, it felt like the time my dad had died. In ensuing years, every hardship and challenge would begin to stack on each other, making me feel like it was the end of the world any time something went wrong. I wouldn’t even catch on to that pattern until years later though.
The singer and I went on a little hike and talked it over. He didn’t seem to have any regrets. I was still in tragic loss mode, knowing the band would never play together again.
But this is what being in a band was like in my 20s. Rarely if ever did it all come together without effort, and most of the time, it didn’t come together. Bands didn’t last for longer than 18 months, and if they did, it was a miracle.
This was my destiny, wasn’t it? Had I made a mistake? How come everyone around me kept quitting on themselves?
Finally fed up with trying to convince others to believe in the dream, I went solo.
I wowed 200 Japanese students and their teachers with my own rendition of a CHAGE&ASKA song. And I had to do it all in a large church without a microphone.
To this day, that may have been the largest audience I’ve ever played to.
The moment passed quickly, but I felt like I had fulfilled on something I had set out to do a long time ago. I had created another connection to the culture I was raised in. And I sang a song for them in their native tongue.
All I did was play one song. I didn’t sell a lot of CDs or merch, nor did I have a lot to sell. But I did something many would consider challenging.
I’m still in touch with my grade six teacher, and only a few years ago, he referred to me as the “bridge between Canada and Japan.” Probably without ever knowing about the one time I performed for 200 Japanese kids.
In his own words, there probably aren’t too many Canadians out there who can speak perfect Japanese. I only know one – my sister.
I’ve gotten to do some cool things in the world of music.
I’ve been interviewed for radio shows. I’ve played at festivals. I’ve been on TV a couple times and played guitar for a friend’s CD release and live DVD.
None of this stuff ever happened when I wanted it so badly to happen. It basically came together when I was no longer expecting it or had any interest in it happening.
I can only conclude one thing from all this, that holding your dream in a chokehold bottlenecks the flow of opportunity.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition or setting big goals. But you need to let everything unfold as it will. There are only so many things you can control, and results isn’t one of them.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
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