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MY BLOG: Every day for a year.
Day 99. ‘Nakedness and the path changer’

Fidgeting about on stage, which is my usual pre-show ritual, is not just about getting myself snug. These are the moments I get a feel for the company I’m about to keep for the evening, and on this particular night, I knew trouble was afoot. This was my fifth appearance in the town of Gladstone, Queensland. The publican was initially dubious that a girl and a guitar could hold the raucous crowd’s attention, but I’d perfected my art of staying employed by being loud and dance like with my homemade stompbox and percussive guitar playing. Any delicate singing or fingerstyle picking had long been abandoned in favour of being a pub favourite. Gazing out across the crowded sea of coloured lights and bobbing faces, I spotted my previously spied adversary. Tuning up at the start of the night whilst the room was still relatively sparse, I felt his eyes boring into me, just daring me to make eye contact. Being submissive is not in my nature, but I had a long night ahead and trouble was the last thing I wanted, so like all performers I pretended not to notice. At the end of each set, he would oil his way around the floor, attempting to engage me in conversation. “Hey girly”……appealing and all as that sounded, I retreated to the safety and serenity of the backstage area. One more set to go of my four set marathon, and I was truly done in. Climbing into the saddle for one last hoorah, I made the unintended and dreaded eye contact with Mr. Oily. “&*%$” I thought to myself! Not wishing to inflame the beast, I gave him a quick tight smile and nod of my head before launching into random chords. I had no idea what I was playing I just wanted to look busy. With his hands thumping down on the stage in time to my stompbox, and inebriated vocalizing shredding my eardrums, I began drifting off to a state of numb. I’d been cycling around this random chord progression for quite a while, enough for the crowd to start looking at me a little quizzically. Desperate for any song I could think of, I finally found myself belting out “Day Dream Believer ” courtesy of ‘The Monkees’. A roar from the crowd and joyous singalong began once more. Looking out at the happy partygoers, my heart was sinking faster than the Titanic. I had a billion more shows just like this one to get through. I’d succeeded in making myself a popular act for the pubs and was making a really good living at it, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. Right at this critical juncture, Mr. Oily hauled himself up onto the stage and placed himself right between my foldbacks. Buoyed on by the hooting crowd, he started dancing barely inches from me, leaning his face into the microphone lending me his caterwaul cries. On with the show I went, falling back on the old pretext, but making frantic hand signals to the bouncers for help. My distress went unnoticed until Mr. Oily decided to disrobe himself and avail me of all his glory. Coming to an abrupt stop, the complete silence from the stage brought four avenging bouncers flying from all corners. Oily was dragged unceremoniously from the stage, pummeled severely, and kicked out. Sitting in crumpled dismay, I knew I’d had enough. The never-ending advice and pressure…” ya gotta play faster faster, ya got play louder louder, ya have to do this, ya have to do that.” I had a definite mind snap. Hauling myself off the stool and kicking poor stompy off the stage I roared out, “I don’t have to do anything!!!!!” Whilst the audience had not been privy to my internal conversation, they seemed to understand what I meant. Repositioning myself to sit on the edge of the stage, I launched into a ballad, an original song that I generally only played at the start of the night when no one was listening. That ‘stuff it’ moment. I’m good enough to hold you with what I am, or I am not. I will keep that Gladstone crowd in my heart until my dying day. Being on my side in that moment was a life changer. Everyone talks about faith in yourself as an artist, but for me, it’s having absolute faith in your audience and never underestimating them. Squeezing my hand tightly at the end of the night, the owner of the pub thanked me as always for entertaining his crowd. Pulling a diary out of his back pocket, he started to flick through dates for next time as was our routine. Reading my face, he surrendered the diary back to his pocket. “You’re not coming back, are you.” It’s really hard to say no when you are wanted. And whilst I wanted to play, I knew it wasn’t like this. The challenges and obstacles still seem to be enormous, and for every staircase climbed it seems to collapse at the top. But isn’t it the same for all of us, really? No matter your goal, or how many things you achieve, we’re all saying goodbye to one chapter as we move to the next. So until then, just keep reading!

Until the next one!
Thank you for listening!
Stevie. x