It sounds like the beginning of a joke…
A scouser a slam poet and an acrobat get in to a tiny white car… its no joke, but it was funny. We were driving the State Highway 1 Desert Road which is really, the only road that goes up the centre of New Zealand’s North Island to the Coromandel. The Desert Road looks a bit like the surface of Mars at some parts, its a desert obviously but with reddish tones, active volcanoes and mountains scattered with wild shrubbery and is almost totally flat for a long part of it. It’s incredibly beautiful and lasts a long time, so you can’t forget it or that amazing North Island.
When we got to the Coromandel (separate story about that place is coming) we separated and the acrobat went off to tour with the circus while me and the poet went off to a music festival.
I of course had no money to spent going to a music festival, so the poet had got me in as part of his band, saying that I was a backing singer. In my past life as a photographer I knew how this worked and thought great that will work I’ll get in that way, then I’m cool to go explore. But that is not what happened at all.
Since I’d forgotten my lines, frozen and naturally then failed my Theatre practical exam in college 10 (or so) years ago… I hadn’t climbed back out of the hole I slid in to on stage that day when the ground swallowed me up. In fact I’d taken a prominent and concrete back-stage role to my whole life. I went from decent actress, singer and performer to photographer, designer and editor. I went from wanting to be seen on stage to wanting to be working alone with no mirrors or reflective surfaces. I had got in to my six choices of universities prior to that exam, all but one were to do performing arts courses, so guess which one I ended up attending? That decision to leave the front of the stage and go behind it meant I spent the next nine years behind a computer. Letting my fingers do all the creative work, my body was cleverly hidden behind a screen.
The poet had heard me sing a few times singing on the front porch along to his guitar, nothing serious… just hanging out in the sun vibes… but now he was actually serious, he really did want me to sing on stage with is band and he wasn’t about to let me get away with it. Now at this festival, in debt to my friend for his kindness – what was I going to do? It was happening, I’d been beamed up.
That morning while the band mic checked I sat in a quiet corner at the back of the room, distancing myself from the stage and realising that I was going to do something pretty huge that evening. I started feebly playing some songs on ukulele that I’d learned trying to remember how to sing properly. A stunningly beautiful girl came over to sit beside me. She said she would be in the band tonight too and that she was a singer. I was half relieved and half winded.
Do I tell her that I am an imposter? Do I play along and let her think I’m some singer they actually wanted to work with? She doesn’t know that my head is bubbling, should I tell her? ‘No’ I answered myself in my head. ‘If you tell her your situation then she’ll be on edge, feel pressure to support you, be watching you closely, be egging you on, be all supportive and it will make you feel so self conscious and unworthy – you’ll sink again. Just go with it, you are a good singer, you can do this, your past won’t affect your voice and that was all that matters on stage, just chill out, rely on your skill, you don’t have to tell everyone everything about you’ alright point made. I told myself to shh and decided to experiment.
I didn’t tell her and it was actually a pretty good move. We decided how we were gonna play it that night and had a nice time hanging out with all the interesting folks about, drinking chai tea, a bit of yoga here, a drum circle there. It was a pretty rad day – then it was time to get ready.
We had no practice, only a band meeting minutes before we went on – were everyone said hi to each other (for the first time) we got our make up done, got in to costume had a little hug and high five then bounced on stage.
Headlining the whole festival
The band were called Psychedelic Spaceship, they are groovy as fuck and have a following in New Zealand. My poetic friend hadn’t told me just how big a following though until a couple of hours before we went on stage that they were the headline act. He was also the lead singer, King Sun Moon Love, he’d picked out a matching costume for me to wear so I could be his disciple, a loving gesture.
The spaceship landed, with smoke and psychedelic lights all around us we arrived on planet Earth for an hour.. all six of us. The room was full of love, I felt it waft through me, the love smelled of incense, tobacco and weed. My voice come through the mic, I didn’t expect it and was thankful for the rainbow face paint and big costume that gave me a character to hide behind. We didn’t know any of the songs, we didn’t know any of the rhythms, we just had each other and the music to bounce off. It worked and we nailed it. Slowly I started to have fun and my confidence grew back, I felt part of a team and smiled climbing out of that hole in the earth I’d been in for years and on to this UFO… for about a week afterwards I had a big dumb grin.
After the show, now that people had seen me on stage, they came and spoke to me afterwards. Sitting around a blazing camp fire I was invited to the beach for the full Moon celebration. Walking down there in the dark behind two guys dressed as lit up robots I’d been thinking about the show. About how this was a great, safe and playful way for me to grow a part of myself back and that I’d been very lucky to have this chance to mess around with a kind of over the top band. Some guys had set up camp for everyone on the sand and put candles out in a circle. The beautiful singer started playing guitar and singing with me next to her. Now out of my costume, close to the people and with no instruments, lights or smoke to protect me I was really freaking out that she’d que me in to sing with her some more… she did. Onne, Two, Threeee…
Time froze, this was different. This wasn’t singing with a crazy band now… this was me having to step up and be just myself. Wanting the sand to swallow me up or the tide to suddenly take me away with her or a fire to start because of the candles, I looked around me in desperation for a reason to not sing. Time started again, extra fast to compensate and that split second since she’d glanced at me my mind did hours of thinking. “Four…” she sang… and I sang. Under the light of the full moon, with the presence of the ocean and the sound of people howling like wolves in the distance I opened my lips, took a breath and sang solo for all those people. I felt that I’d passed a test of strength and now a barrier had been broken and I wouldn’t go under ground again.
Put your feet where your mind won’t go
This was my advice to myself that day, and has since became my philosophy for personal growth. Any time I see that there is a part of me hiding, I think back to the spaceship, think of the deep dark hole I was in and just walk in to the situation believing that I will be accepted for whatever reality I represent in the room. My mind will then follow my feet, body and soul to where I am standing and I will feel complete.
“Hardship breeds strength” – King Sun Moon Love of Neptune, deliver of liberation to the chosen ones.