Eek, I am finally getting some opportunities to perform on stage! After spending so much time building your art up, it can feel like a big ball of energy that you want to send spinning into the world. Each rehearsal makes the fire burn brighter. Each question from mates asking ‘When? Where?’ chucks another bucket of petrol on it. Each excited reaction to your shit just has your skin all furious in its heat. And when you are really proud of what it is you want ears to munch on, it can feel like the weight of the world is pushing you perpetually to get it out there.
On the 23rd of June I had a huge step forward with my poetry. My dear mate Cheska patterned me a gig with the one and only Hollie McNish. I remember being seventeen, writing the most poetry I ever had up to that point, realising I had a voice there, I had no shame there – I had a friend there. I discovered my liege Kae Tempest, and realised people like me could do this. I also explored different English poets, fascinated by the varied styles of writing, approach and performance. Hollie McNish was one of my poets on the Petri dish. I would listen to her album ‘Versus’. Captivated by her raw and open way of talking about really normal things that most of us have been told are the opposite of that. Her new book Slug basically touches that concept. She is one of the reasons I have pursued my greatest passion as not just a pastime but a career, and I am ever grateful. So when the chance to perform alongside her came up, I seized that bitch with both hands.
I turned up early (as I always bloody do), and just had to loiter around outside for a bit. The gig was hosted by Roast Caffe and held in the Royal British Legion in Wivenhoe, Essex. So the loitering was not the worst thing. My mum and I sat looking out at the open water collecting thoughts. Our friends, including Cheska, rocked up and we all huddled about chatting. A bloke called Matt happened upon us and joined our gaggle, which led to us sneaking him into the venue so he could watch the show without spending a penny on a ticket. My Papa came. I was there to support Hollie, so I was up first. Twenty minutes before the opening, 8pm, I went to the audience’s room and waddled about. Then I was introduced by a lovely fella from Red Lion Books (Colchester) and stood in front of about forty people, ready to pour my heart out to them all. For the first time ever.
I read one poem from the website to start, ‘My Intimacy, My Secrecy’. I wanted to start with this as it’s basically about wet dreams and I knew that was Hollie’s ballpark. I then read two poems from each chapter of my book ‘I Love’ (available from the SHOP page on this site). I finished with another poem from the website titled ‘My Lessons Are Blessings’. I was grateful that I didn’t kick it off with a shaking, quivering voice. That little bastard that happens even if you don’t feel that shook up; almost like your body gets nervous and forgets to tell you. As soon as I got up there and that didn’t happen, I knew I would be alright. I stumbled a couple words over the half hour I was up there, but who gives a fuck? I had the best time ever. I loved doing it. I loved being up there, sharing the work that means everything to me. It felt so good. So damn good.
After a small break, Hollie got up and did her set. It was amazing! So touching, so funny. It felt like a real full circle moment. So many lovely people were in the audience and it was just a fantastic start to this journey. I loved it. That night I got into bed with a full, chunky, chubby heart.
The next week I did an open mic with the band. It was only three of us; myself on the mic, Jack on guitar and Meg on bass. We did an acoustic version of four out of the five EP tracks. We went to The Old Street Brewery in Hackney Wick. It was pretty empty but an amazing experience. It felt very intimate and trustworthy. I think that level of comfort for our first showing of these songs on stage has set the precedence for all of our future performances. Each time those pesky insecurities rear their ferocious heads, slapping me with the hellfire tongues and gripping my neck with the sooty and vicious arms of Ravana, I remind myself that this is what I want to do for my life. So why ruin it because that Rakshasa has come to tear me down? Me and Meg have kept repeating ‘fake it until you make it’ all this week. Even if those moments of fragility come swooping in before it’s the time to get on, you have to make a choice in that moment on how to battle them. If you let them eat you up, you may miss the one chance of succeeding. If you stick a finger up to them and pretend everything’s tip-top, suddenly it’ll become that. One stage, when you have to focus on what you’re performing, it’s quite easy to suddenly forget you were nervous in the first place. I feel like my boon in this life is poetry. I would be a sucker if I rejected that. Victory is achieved with love.
Having not performed for months, then having those two amazing experiences within the week of each other, I felt like my confidence was regained. I can often spiral in the stresses of feeling like time is being wasted, feeling like nothing’s going anywhere and that I am drying up. A day can often feel like a week, a week a month, a month a… you feel me. The fear seizes you and you suddenly flash forward to forty, still playing empty open mics, still dreaming, still spinning but not moving. But if you allow them to blossom they’ll bloom bigger and stronger than you ever will. I had a bit of a meltdown last week about it all and Alfie, who plays keys in the band, told me (to paraphrase) ‘This is supposed to be your pleasure! If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong. It should be the thing you look forward to, the thing that gives you life.’ And he was so right. I was letting it drain me rather than revitalise. We are so blessed if we are in the arts. It’s a bloody hard industry, but without it, we have nothing. Nada. Zilch. And I don’t want to have nothing, even if that dark voice tells me that’s all I am.
We’re planning to get in as many gigs as possible, to really start building it all up. We’ve set a date for the EP release: August 1st 2022. Which is really exciting! I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. We have been working on new music too, and it’s so exciting. As we put all effort and energy into the EP, I forgot how lush it is to make up new stuff. We have a gig in August in Clacton which we are all looking forward to. I felt that things were getting bit lost and muddled for a while. But now it’s all in grasp again; it all feels connected again. I suppose the tank needed refilling, and that it has been.
I hope you’re all well. Tough times behind and ahead. But we are tougher. We have the spark, the gold, the power. Never let them take it away.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Shout by Serena Kaos – This tune is lush and gracious; it rolls and builds and Serena’s voice is effortless and ethereal. It has touches of Lana Del Rey, but in a new way. Serena Kaos is an independent artist in London and this song is really worth checking out!
Book: And The Ass Saw The Angel by Nick Cave – This expertly overwritten, gothic, dark yet humorous book is quite the masterpiece. Cave uses multiple experimental narrative methods and the language is so eclectic and visceral. I have read his other book The Death of Bunny Monroe and found this one in the charity shop for thirty pence. It’s absolutely brilliant. I love his style; the complicated sentences, the rich sensory descriptions, the fun you can tell he had writing it.