We're in the Virgin Lounge at Brisbane Airport. Killing time. Time is a constant and contrary friend on the road. Sometimes there's way too much yet somehow there's never enough. The tour started modestly. A front bar in Toowoomba, crammed into the corner with our amps at awkward angles and me a little bit too drunk after an early start and a long day of flying, lugging, setting up, waiting and smoking. I'm drawn to the wine and the smokes before a gig. My game face. Careful not to get OFF my face, but hey, it's a fine wine between 'confident' and 'pissed'. And the smokes. I haven't given up. I'm scared to change my routine after so long. It's a tangled web we weave. And this root system is well established and gnarly by now.
The gig started and I was behind myself. I couldn't look up to the drift of faces in the sparse crowd. I couldn't hear my voice. I felt like I was singing through paper. The show was going on around me, the way it feels when you're a little tacker trying to join in with your older siblings' elaborate game that you don't understand in the slightest but bluff your way (unconvincingly) through. My fingers felt stiff and unresponsive. It frustrates me to my core, like a fickle, confusing love affair, how playing guitar can feel so different for me from one gig to the next. Sometimes the frets open up in a clear map, thrown into relief, and my hands stride with purpose over them. I'm confident that I know where I am, that I can hear what I'll play before I actually play it and I take risks and try combinations of notes which clash and soar and land with conviction. Other nights my hands cramp up like arthritic crabs, scuttling clumsily, my fingers tripping over each other. I'm scared to venture beyond the third fret. I'm chained down. The volume is never right. It's too loud and exposed or so bright that it cuts through the belt of the band like paper though a protruding tongue. It makes me remember to enjoy the times when my hands trust themselves. And to not take myself too seriously when they don't. (Or at least just blame my equipment…) As the set continued I felt worse and worse. I clambered down every conceivable mental hole. By the end of the gig I'd convinced myself that my entire musical life had been an elaborately constructed ruse. That I was, in fact, musically illiterate and suddenly stuck at 33 with no qualifications and nothing but a few guitars (that by then I'd convinced myself I couldn't play for shit) to my name. 'This is the first of 31 gigs', I told myself. Fuck.
But then, after a solidifying wine, I fell straight to sleep on the starched hotel sheets and woke up to a new day and the promise of a VacuPress coffee. The next gig was way better, the third better again. And last night was great. I always try and remind myself to not underestimate how much fatigue can affect everything; performance, attitude, paranoia levels. As a naturally anxious person, constantly scrambling around for something to fixate on and worry about, it's an important lesson. That I learn over and over and over again.