The Sound of Silence

There seems to be a law of the Universe that dictates when Beemo plays Meg O'Malley's in Melbourne one member of the band has to lose his voice. When we played a Friday / Saturday run in mid-summer, it was Dan. He had been getting over a cold and was losing his high end and some frequencies in the middle of his range. This past weekend's run, it was me. I could croak out about 30 dB of Gollum-like whisper, only less melodious. So no talking or singing at all for me.

It was actually kind of a freeing experience. There's something comforting in absolutely not being able to speak and having everyone know it. You really evaluate what information is important enough to pantomime and what isn't. My on-stage audience interaction was limited to some exaggerated facial expressions and off-stage I was consigned to apologetic head shakes while pointing to my throat. I felt a lot more present and absorbed in the goings on around me, and a lot more pointedly observant than normal.

The playing experience was very different a normal show. Ever since the Bustin' Out album I've had a greatly expanded backup singing roll on our originals, and almost all of our Irish pub tunes have pretty extensive harmonies, so not being able to do any of it gave me the distinct feeling I was slacking or getting away with being lazy.

It turns out February Morning is really easy to play when I don't have to sing a part that's extremely high in my range while playing the chorus arpeggios. Leaving out my pretty much constant vocal part on Better Now makes the song so simple I almost thought myself out of it and screwed up.

Bustin' Out and Better Now, where my parts are the most prominent, definitely sounded odd. (Probably not to the audience, but for someone who's heard and played them hundreds of times it definitely felt like something was missing.)

Having no microphone responsibilities really let me do a closer listen than normal while we played. The most amusing thing was realizing how few Irish Traditional lyrics Justin actually knew as he frantically tried to cover my parts. "She said she was queen of the land" became "I heard she was queen of the damned" in Black Velvet Band. And that was just the one I heard clearly. ... I wonder what he thinks some of the Beemo original lyrics are and whether his head cannon is better than the actual lyrics. Note to self: mine Justin for accidental lyrical improvements.

I'm normally the one who calls out the setlist during shows which obviously wasn't a thing I could do. Tony asked for a Marcel Marceau interpretation of the setlist before we started and we played charades and coined some Americana Sign Language. MacGregor's Revenge: reining in a horse followed by a frantic stabbing motion. Allyson: Using hands to outline an hourglass shape, then a middle finger. Where the Streets Have No Name: A gesture to the floor and then a bemused shrug. Sucker Punch would have been easy, though potentially hazardous. And fortunately for all families present Back Seat Down wasn't on the setlist.

I think the actual performance was pretty good, though on Friday occasionally my mind wandered as I had a lot less to keep track of than normal. The only near train wreck happened due to a capo shenanigan which had nothing to do with my lack of singing. (Sean was missing his capo, so he sat out Jennie. I've covered his part on that song many many times, but never when he was physically standing there. I realized about a millisecond before the dropout at the end chorus that he wasn't going to be playing and barely got my autopilot off and jumped in on the solo arpeggios in time. Missing that would have been extremely confusing for everyone as normally Sean's guitar is the only instrument playing there)

Sean wasn't there for the Saturday show, which changes a bunch of my parts and almost triples my solo work but it was easier to focus without any singing responsibilities.

I did notice that when you can't talk a lot of people seem to instinctively pantomime back at you rather than just, you know, speaking. That was really interesting from a human psychology perspective and kind of funny from just an objective perspective. Maybe I should fake some more voice issues in the future to lighten my workload and observe well meaning people doing unnecessary charades.

We've got a show on Sunday September 15 at Boxi Park in Lake Nona from 6-9pm. I'm hoping my voice will be fully recovered by then.


Or am I?


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