The downside to doing a five-minute spot at an open mic night like I played tonight is you have to keep yourself somewhere between relaxed - when you're not going on stage for a long time yet - and primed for the moment you finally do.
This is particularly the case when you're the penultimate act in a long line-up, as I was tonight. In my case, I caught the train to Finsbury Park at the end of a stressful day to walk in the rain to a venue I've never been to before (having taken a wrong turn more than once), to a pub full of people I'd never met. The sole purpose of going there was to try a few new lines to break the back of some untested material, while also judging whether the venue might be a good place to visit regularly, to road-test ideas as I try to piece together a new show. If I liked the space, it could be perfect, as I'd have finally found somewhere I could go that wouldn't involve a travelcard and a tube journey. It would also be cheaper, which is preferable when I'm not being paid for the gig.
The walk to the venue didn't fill me with confidence, as it wasn't the most inspiring area, being typical of the surroundings of a North London football club (dilapidated and intimidating in equal measure). The pub itself, by contrast, was surprisingly welcoming. It felt like a lot of the music venues I used to play with my band, with a decent stage (with a backline) and a good PA. The guy who ran the gig was welcoming and kept things moving at a pace, which is great when there's a lot to get through.
My set itself was fair-to-middling, but it’s next-to-impossible to get a sense of how things are going when you’re off-stage almost as soon as you went on. I gave it energy, in a bid to catch interest when the audience's enthusiasm was waning - and got laughs, despite it going by in a blur. But tonight wasn’t really about my performance, so much as finding a new place to try stuff out, and the upshot of was I’ll definitely go back. I even managed to get home before 11pm, which is pretty amazing; if I could just do gigs in my own postcode, I'd be quids-in.