Notebook: My experience performing at the Blind Pig's Showcase Night

By Katie Steen, Daily Arts Writer
Published December 10, 2012

Last Tuesday night, I was sitting on a stool talking to a few friends. On the floor next to me sat a heap of instruments — some guitars, a bass, a disassembled drum set, their accompanying cords entangled within the mess. There were a few backpacks, too — one of them was mine, and I reached inside to take out a book that was hidden underneath my microphone.

Grabbing my book, I walked to another stool facing the wall, a desk-like ledge projecting out conveniently and, with hard rock blaring from the speakers, I was able to complete some last-minute reading for class, aided by the glowing light of a sign on the wall that read “The Blind Pig.”

I hadn’t anticipated doing my homework at the Blind Pig, but the fact remained that it was finals week and I had some downtime before my band — our band — Palisades, went on for Showcase Night. Of course, my bandmates and I had had our giddy moments of holy shit, we’re playing at the Blind Pig — famous people have played here! But the venue was pretty much empty except for the other three bands there for Showcase Night.

The first group that went on was a folk band with a healthy dose of facial hair, quaintly cute dresses and banjos. It involved two female leads that sang with grace and confidence, one of whom apparently accompanies Ann Arbor’s Violin Monster as Little Red Riding Hood. Their set was fantastic, but I still didn’t have the lyrics for our new song — which remains entitled “New Song,” or “Newson” if you announce it really quickly under your breath to the audience — so unfortunately I had to spend the majority of their set huddled in a corner, directing my cell phone light toward my chest as I typed out lyrics.

Then it was our turn to play, and by then a lot of my friends had shown up. Though I was relieved that my worst fear — playing to an empty room — wouldn't be realized, I was also a quivering, sleep-deprived mess who was now supposed to go perform for an actual audience at an actual venue. I was supposed to not only make music with my vocal cords, but the music was supposed to sound good to a sober audience at a venue that is not a co-op basement and has un-shitty acoustics and lights and a real, three-dimensional stage.

We started off the show with our sunniest song — a surfy thing called “Float Away” that was initially inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch but, as most of our stuff tends to do, ended up turning into a love song. When I began singing, my voice was stiff and shaky, and I grabbed the microphone as if to stabilize myself — which probably just made me look absolutely terrified. I’ve sang this song plenty of times, so I was able focus on things like what the fuck do people in bands do with their hands when they sing? rather than remembering the words.

After that show, the audience (read: my friends) cheered madly, and I was extremely pleased to see that we had a legitimate crowd who came to see us play. I introduced us as Palisades, and asked if Michael Ho, our friend/roadie was in the crowd. He was.

Next was a cover of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination.” During the song, I kept seeing friends and fellow co-opers streaming in at the door, which elicited huge, seemingly unwarranted grins onstage. After that we played an older song called “Hero,” after which I decided to introduce everyone in the band. Because that’s what bands do when they play live during real concerts — and that’s what we are! A real band! Right? (By the way, that’s Jeremy Batt on guitar, Peter Felsman on drums, Phil Neale on bass and Josh “Bear Claw” Bayer on keys. Anyway.)

Then it was time for the new song, which we came up with in a day and then never really changed except for the lyrics, which alter drastically every performance. But the instrumentation is what’s important in the song and it isn’t actually about anything yet, so it didn’t really matter that I forgot the lyrics I came up with thirty minutes earlier, resulting in several verses of English-like non-words that I would later discover no one had noticed.

The new song transitioned into “Easy,” an older song that, like most of our music, turns into a jam at the end. There was some weak moshing in the crowd and then the song ended. We said thanks and started unpacking our shit when the crowd (my friends) starting yelling encore — except we had played every single song we’ve got plus a cover, so an encore was not happening. We left the stage, everyone told me they had fun and loved us to death and we’re all beautiful people, etc., and that was my experience as a showcase band at the Blind Pig.