When it comes to singing in public, my resume is short and checkered. It begins with an ill-fated tryout for my fifth grade musical, when I gave a horrid rendition of some long-forgotten tune about five feet from the accusing eyes of my grade school crush. Then there was the time I was all set to sing lead for my band Thunderlips when we were going to headline the ill-fated 32nd Ward Toga Party of 2001. A well-timed lightning bolt put an end to that effort. Later that fall, when I did manage to sing lead for the band (during a brief set we played out of our guitarist and bass player's garage), I barely had my voice back before I was dumped by my would-be girlfriend of the time.
The only thing that ever kept me thinking I might have the chops for a lead vocal (aside from my genetic connection to my sister, an accomplished opera-style vocal minor at Weber State University) was a brief but memorable performance at the Blue Chicago--my favorite Windy City blues club--almost fifteen years ago. Ever since I warbled my way through a single stanza of "Baby Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On," I had always wondered if I could really pull off a legit bluesy lead vocal for a whole song. Or any lead vocal, really.
Thanks to a dual show at the Layton Amphitheater last month, I finally got my answer. And that answer was: yeah, pretty much. Halfway through my blues band's set, I stepped down from my drum riser, passed off my sticks to our normal lead singer, put on my beloved leather fringe jacket, and sang a little Neil Diamond for the dedicated crowd. I didn't blow anyone away, or make my bandmates think I should take over permanently on lead vocals while we look for a new drummer, but I didn't embarass myself, and when I watched the video recording of the set later that night, I didn't recoil in horror and destroy the footage in desperation. I got the job done, plain and simple.
"You Got to Me" was a complete surprise to nearly everyone. As a band, one of our main concerns going into the show was that we didn't offer a repetitive experience to what they'd seen in previous performances. Shaking things up with something as simple as me taking over lead vocals helped to accomplish that goal. And on a personal level, it was a lot of fun to see the reaction of friends and family to me doing something they wouldn't expect me to do. I think that idea--the idea of pushing yourself into challenging and unfamiliar situations--is at the heart of this whole list I've been ticking away at for the last few months.
Last summer I stepped out of my comfort zone and played the drums on a stage that was out of my league, but I felt good about it because I tried. It's a lot nicer to do the same thing and find out that it isn't out of your league after all.