So I had the Starbucks gig last Friday. I generally had nice comments all around, but well, that’s how the business goes.. people always say nice things and give you a pat on the back no matter how badly you did. I learned earlier on that if you believe everything people say about your, umm, talent, you’ll end up like another American Idol reject who stomps out of the room cursing Simon Cowell to damnation.
Well lucky for me Simon Cowell was nowhere to be found. I came to Starbucks at 10.20pm. The place was full, people were spilling onto the sidewalk, and Qings and Kueens were about to finish their set. I was scheduled to go up next and not a single friend of mine had turned up! To make matters worse, they are a really good band. Like the Malaysian version of Goo Goo Dolls. Heads were bobbing and feet were tapping to the music. Wah. I was impressed. Then I was worried. I was up NEXT! How was I going to top them? I didn’t even have my voice back. The week-long cold did not get any better. I took a Clarinase and prayed.
Then, I made my way slowly to the sound engineer. He made reassuring comments and patted me lightly on the back. Qings and Kueens made the introductions and I hitched my baju kurung up and curtsied to everyone, who clapped and chatted politely with each other while waiting for me to finish the sound check.
As I was bending over (pun intended) to retune the guitars, my eye caught sight of a pair of hands waving frantically. I looked up and saw these two unfamiliar faces. They were smiling broadly and said “Do ‘Wishlist’ ok?” (note: Wishlist is one of the first songs I ever wrote and for some strange reasons or another it has caught on to so many people). And I said, yeah sure, and scratched my head because I had no clue who they were.
As I sat at the makeshift stage and rearranged my baju kurung, I looked around and saw some familiar faces smiling back. Aaah, things were starting to look up. There was a group of about 15 friends sitting at various tables. I heard my name being chanted from outside the cafe. I peered to the sidewalk, it was dark and I could not see who they were, but I saw a lot of hands waving and cameras flashing and the unmistakable click of camcorders. Oh good, more friends. I was starting to feel good about the whole matter.
I started the set with Let’s Not Talk About Ifs. It was short and simple – and was chosen because of the mid-range. I looked at Mr H.B who was sitting right in front of me. He nodded approvingly and the people at his table were tapping their feet, so that was not a bad sign at all.
Next I sang Puisi Akhir Musim Bunga, because I have always wanted to perform a Bahasa Melayu song. Nobody threw up. That was encouraging. This night could end well.
Then, for no reason, MiLo choked. I thought to myself, gosh maybe I shouldn’t have asked him to be my back-up guitarist.. this being his first public performance and all. But the crowd was very forgiving and cheered for him. I laughed and started to play the opening chords to the third song when I heard “Wishlist! Wishlist!” being shouted from the back.
Look, I was having a bad cold. MiLo was experiencing a bad bout of stage fright. I could ignore the request and went ahead with my planned set, but I figured, hey, we were already playing very badly, we might as well give the crowd what they wanted. When in Rome. So we did Wishlist and we didn’t do it too well but we had a rousing round of applause.
I closed the set with Phase 3, thanked everyone whom I needed to thank and apologized to the crowd for not being able to do a full set because of ill health. Then I walked around the cafe, hugging and air kissing people, made small talks and then walked back to my friends. I noticed the group of people who was still standing on the dark sidewalk. I still had no idea who they were but they seemed to know who I was so I figured I should at least thank them for coming. I walked up to them and said “Can I buy you guys a drink” (a trick that I learned — when in doubt, offer to buy someone a drink). Nobody answered. So, I asked them “Who’d the hell are you guys?” and they started laughing hysterically.You know what I found out? It turned out Awa had broadcast my MP3 on yahoo and posted the date of my performance. And yes, these 17 people are …. dare I say it ….FANS!! Actual FANS!! They came all they way from wherever they were to watch me perform and I didn’t even have to bribe them! Wow. I almost toppled over my 6-inch Renoma heels.
So yes, I ended up buying every one of them a drink. In my elation, I also ended up agreeing to be interviewed for a radio show (only to realize that I didn’t have broadcast quality demo AFTER agreeing to do the show *sigh*) and promising a few strangers I will play at their gigs in April. Phone numbers were exchanged but I had no idea who I gave my number to; I went to thank Sei Hon profusely for lending me his Ovation and he was gracious in return. All was well. Garage came with a friend after everything was over, but I was grateful nevertheless. Life was good.
When I reached home, I asked Ita what she thought. She said, “It wasn’t smooth and people were not able to enjoy the songs because you had to restart a few times. It was ok for me because I have heard the songs many times. But I didn’t like it.”
Count on her to give me to me straight. Well, better Ita than Simon Cowell.