"Steve Aungle"4. An Unhealthy Concert

As mentioned in part 1, I’m not really cut out for performing solo piano. The adrenaline I get is so insanely extreme that it’s not that dissimilar to a bad LSD trip. Despite all of this, in 2006 I decided I would have to deal with my fears, get out there and perform. After all, I had just pressed up a new piano album that year, and playing live was one of the few options available to me for promoting it if I was going to sell any copies. So I accepted an invitation to perform from an organization called ‘Healthy Concerts’ based in Brighton. It is designed to be informal and friendly- you play in someone’s living-room in front of a relatively small number of people. I thought it would be a good way to break myself in and even somehow avoid my adrenaline problem. If I could pull off a reasonable, mistake-free performance, I could maybe face the prospect of a proper, formal piano recital.
As it turned out, there was no opportunity to test out and familiarize myself with the piano I was to be playing. It looked ok- a boudoir grand with a make that sounded German- which is usually a good sign. Right up to the point where I sat down at the piano, I had felt just fine. Not the slightest sign of nerves. What happened next changed all of this. Instead of keeping a respectful distance from the piano, my audience (some 20 or 30 people) proceeded to crowd themselves all around the instrument from every conceivable angle. I was surrounded by a panorama of expectant faces. I could feel every pair of eyes glued greedily to my fingers as I started my first piece ‘Waltz from Liberty Lounge’- a relatively easy piece once the main theme starts- but with a series of tricky arpeggios in the introduction.
The piano was nothing short of dreadful. The action was so loose, it was like sinking your fingers into a bucket of rotten marshmallows. The familiar adrenaline rush coursed through my veins, clogging my finger tendons with what felt like thick treacle. Many of the piano’s dampers didn’t work at all so that before too long, I realized I was producing a quite appalling cacophony. I galloped through each piece, picking up penalty points and double faults by the dozen as I blundered on. My audience clapped respectfully after each piece but I felt like screaming at them for not walking out in recognition of my shocking performance. One never knows when people are being polite in such instances or are quite simply tone-deaf and utterly unaware of the difference between music and noise.
I didn’t even attempt to sell any CDs afterwards. I got myself out of there as quickly as possible, called up a friend, met up with him in a nearby pub, and got extremely drunk in a very short space of time.


5 Responses to “Piano Works”

  1. Susan Says:

    Oh, never mind, Steve – every great artist has to “die” at least once in his/her life. Tell you what, if I ever get to see you perform, wink with your right eye if you’re playing well, and with your right if you’re crap. Then I’ll know whether to clap or jeer.

    1. steveaungle Says:

      One thing I noticed about audiences in Brighton during my time there is that they tend to be insanely positive and will clap just about anything- in contrast to, say, a Glasgow audience. I wd always prefer the latter because at least you know they’ve actually taken the trouble to listen properly. S

      1. Susan Says:

        You should try playing Newcastle Riverside. If what Andy’s told me is anything to go by, you’re lucky if anyone looks up from their pint of NB.

      2. steveaungle Says:

        I played Newcastle with a cabaret band once and yes, it was pretty grim even tho we played all the favourites. Dread to think how it wdve been with an original band- mind you, Dundee was similar back then. Let’s just say that the north of the UK in general is hard to please. It’s a bit like that here, in Berlin. But I kind of like it that way. xS

  2. Susan Says:

    Erm, I meant with your left if you’re crap, of course. Duh.

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