Behind the Microphone
It's almost half past nine, and I'm waiting in the lobby of one of the most famous hotels in New Orleans. I go on stage in half an hour, with a seven piece band, with whom I've had no rehearsal. That's just how we do things around here. Everyone performs so often, most people can jump into a gig and fit seamlessly into the group. Chances are you've played with some sort of combination of the group before.
My pre-show excitement jitters are starting to hit, mostly because it's been a while since I've been up on this stage, and also because I'm filling in for Lena Prima, daughter of the great Louis Prima. I met Lena when I was working on a show about her dad, "Jump, Jive, and Wail! The Music of Louis Prima", written and performed for the National WWII Museum. Tonight I'll be performing some of the same songs from that show, the songs her dad wrote and/or made famous. No pressure. I'm glad she entrusts me with the material, and with doing it justice.
Unfortunately I broke one of my nails earlier today, and did not have time to go fix it. Hopefully no one will notice. I'm a little self conscious about how I look in my red dress, a little lace number reminiscent of the 40s. My hair came out so big when I curled it, that I ended up fixing it in an updo -- the best I could anyway. I look super retro, minus the red lips -- I didn't want to look like I was in costume. If you've ever wondered what's going on through the jazz singer's head when she's on break- now you know. Thrilling stuff.
I left my house really early because it's the first night of Jazz Fest, and I anticipated a bit of traffic. There was none. So in the lobby I'll wait until it's about time to go on. The bar is very crowded, as usual, and I tend to get claustrophobic, so I'll keep my distance until I get on stage. Since I have a gig that ends at 1am, and probably won't get home till 2ish, and am teaching two Pilates classes in the morning, I might sip on a coke for some caffeine. I definitely can't have wine tonight -- I'll get too sleepy and have to drive home. I am a little concerned the coke might make me burp, though. More thrilling thoughts.
It's the first song of the first set, "Jump, Jive, and Wail!", an upbeat number that lures a swing dancing priest on the floor with his lovely dance partner. I'm not even kidding. Apparently he's there with a bride and groom to be, whom we call out and serenade to "Going to the Chapel." We end the set with the crowd favorite, "Just a Gigolo", and I go live on Facebook so everyone knows just what they're missing out on. On the way outside for break, a pair of stormtroopers have caught the guests attention and pose for an impromptu photo op. On break, the band discusses very important topics like, crispy versus soft bacon, and peanut butter pancakes.
As you can see, sometimes going behind the scenes may ruin a bit of the magic, but as a performer, the true magic isn't in the glitz and glamour of the shiny instruments or the pretty dresses. Rather, the true magic is in the way the audience's faces light up as we transcend them into 1950s New Orleans and Las Vegas. It's in the emotion of a couple that comes up to you explaining how they've had a rough year and really "needed that". It's in the way the audience sings along with you on songs that they haven't heard in years, and maybe even forgot they knew. It's in the energy and excitement among the band members on stage and it's most definitely in just surrendering to being in the moment, where you forget all your worries and troubles, and just sing.