In this Preshow Rituals segment, the bluesy folk-rock band, Joshua + The Holy Rollers, break down what they do before taking the stage. You can check out their rituals and stream their newest single, (Hey Hey), after the break.
It always starts the same. Coming to on the day of the show with the – hopefully – morning light gently pressing on your eyelids, and then you remember: you get to do the best thing that you’ve ever had the chance to do. You get to play some music. Sometimes the night before includes time at a bar and a lot of what I’ve come to refer to as “borrowing happiness from tomorrow” (usually in the form of Jameson on the rocks), while other times that night before was simple and easy. Often spent sitting back with a Harry Nillsson record on. On occasion perhaps Japanese psych-rock band Kikagaku Moyo, or a personal favorite “Cool It” by Sam Cohen; and if we’re being completely honest, a strong helping of whatever mind-numbing nonsense I’m currently consuming on Netflix.
Whatever I’m waking up from, a show day begins the same. Turn on my morning playlist, and – shower-availability pending – wash last night off of me. For those of you curious, the playlist includes the likes of Stevie Wonder, Bahamas, Richard Swift and kicking it off in a really happy, playful mood: “Simple Pleasures” by Bobby McFerrin. Say what you will, that guy makes me feel like the day is filled with nothing but joy. Upon putting on your big boy pants, your rinsed, virgin skin bare to the world, a familiar tingle starts to grow in the stomach. Colloquially known as “butterflies” or “the reason you puke before walking on stage”; they start off small, and your only choice is to push the nervousness aside and carry on. Literally.
Eventually, you burn up enough of the day and you head to the venue. You finish loading in, the sound check, the after-soundcheck tacos, the after-tacos beer. After some laughs, you’re sitting backstage with a shot of whiskey in your hand, toasting with the rest of the band to a helluva show. The toasts vary, the intent is the same: thank the people you’re doing this with and pray you have a good time. You shove that nervousness down one last time with that whiskey and you walk up to the stage. It’s all in good fun though, because, with no attachment to ego or haughtiness, I’ve come to a single realization: it doesn’t matter. The truest pre-show ritual I have is simply reminding myself of the following:
All of that nervousness is meaningless because it’s without reason. If there were an option, maybe then nervousness might have a place in your day, but that’s just it: There isn’t an option here, Chuck. It’s something I realized as I walked onto the stage a couple years ago, more nervous than I’d ever been. The moment I turned up the guitar, this realization hit me and all of the nervousness evaporated, my leg stopped shaking and I had a blast, so I feel compelled to say it here. Exempting Acts of God, circumstances involving faulty wiring and of course, spontaneous combustion… There are only three eventualities.
- You go onto stage. You rock their faces off, have a blast and walk off stage feeling great because you just did what you love to do.
- You go onto stage. You do decent. You enjoyed yourself, and you walk off stage feeling great because you just did what you love to do.
- You go onto stage. You do terribly. You didn’t particularly have a good time, in fact, there were moments that actively sucked… but all in all, it’s pretty great, because you just did what you love to do and even if you did terribly, you still had a good time doing it.
I’m not sharing some profound wisdom, undiscovered by any artist before me. In fact, every time I talk about this with a fellow performer, they nod in understanding. Nevertheless, the only tried and true ritual is just to try and walk up to the stage the same way every time: f***ing excited, because I got the chance to.