Sound check isn’t going well. There’s a persistent hum in my monitor that no one seems to be able to fix. The lights are throwing a shadow from my microphone boom onto the keyboard, making it hard for me to see middle C. The piano bench is too low. It’s not adjustable. A few minutes ago, when I turned around to take off my guitar, I banged the headstock into the side of the piano visible to the audience. My guitar is cracked where the headstock meets the neck, and there’s a big ding on the piano.
But these are minor problems compared to the sensation I feel in my throat, the one I get when I’m about to lose my voice. How can I give my audience what they’ve come for if I don’t have a voice?
My band mates, Rudy Guess and Gary Burr, try to dispel my anxiety.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Gary volunteers. “Your voice will be there for the show.”
Rudy adds, “Carole, don’t worry about the guitar. It wasn’t your fault.”
Their consoling remarks only make me feel worse. I know why the guitar bang happened. It was because I was in too much of a hurry.
My mood doesn’t improve when John Vanderslice, our production manager, announces, “It’s 6:55, doors open at 7:00, and you need to leave the stage right now.”
“But, Slice, we didn’t check our vocal balance or get a level on ‘Earth Move’!”
Usually we play a chorus of “I Feel the Earth Move” in each new venue so the sound team can assess our likely maximum volume. Whatever level of “loud” we achieve, the sound guys know it goes to “louder” during the actual performance and prepare accordingly. But how can they prepare if they never got to hear where “loud” was?
“Sorry,” Slice says, handing me my backpack and beckoning to the piano tuner in one fluid motion.
As I head backstage, my manager, Lorna Guess, intercepts me.
“Don’t forget, you have a pre-show with some radio contest winners,” she reminds me. “Why don’t you put this on?”
“This” is a lanyard with a hand-lettered laminated sign that says “Voice At Rest.” It explains to others why I’m speaking only in hand signs and whispers, and at the same time reminds me not to speak unnecessarily.
It’s unusual for me to meet radio contest winners before a show. Usually I try to conserve my energy for the concert and greet people afterwards. But we have a long bus ride tonight and need to leave immediately after the performance. Touring bands call it “play and wave.”
I have less than an hour to meet, greet, eat, and primp. I’m hoping the crew will be able to buff out the ding on the piano, raise the piano bench, eliminate the shadow on the keyboard, and get rid of the hum. I shouldn’t worry. In over thirty years of performing in concert I’ve never gone onstage and found a hum heard at sound check still there at showtime. But tonight I am not in harmony with the universe. This is not a good way to feel before a show.
Lorna brings me to the room known as Hospitality where the radio contest winners are. These lovely people are longtime fans. Each has a story. They respect the “Voice At Rest” sign and do all the talking. I listen attentively and sign albums. By the time I’ve met them all, it’s 7:20. Showtime is 8:00.
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