There's a joke that goes like this:
Q: How do you get a musician to complain?
A: Give him/her/them a gig.
And let me tell you, it is indeed funny because it's true.
Readers of my writing here will undoubtedly be familiar with my complaints about being on the road for gigs: the early mornings, the plane rides, the unfamiliar beds, the long days, the inconsistent food, the blur of constant motion, the impermanence of place... the fatigue, the alienation... all for an hour on stage during which I get to do the thing I love to do. Rinse and repeat.
As of the beginning of October, I've gone over seven months without traveling to perform. This is longest stretch for me (by a long shot) in almost ten years. It's rare that I go more than two months without an out-of-town show and I would not be surprised if this streak reached 15 months or more when all is said and done.
So... it's weird.
And: I miss traveling. I miss performing for people in a room. I miss all of it, even the difficult parts.
The good news is that I've been pleasantly surprised with the virtual work I've been getting this fall - between my Odyssey and Iliad pieces I'll have over twenty performances stretching from mid-September to early December. Additionally, I've been encouraged by how well the virtual shows have gone: it turns out my material is effective in a streaming environment and I've found subtle new ways to present the songs and engage the audience in discussion.
I've also been encouraged by the amount of business I've gotten from schools which have hosted me previously. Over half my shows have come from these existing relationships and it's extremely gratifying to know that my work is viewed favorably enough for me to be invited back.
My October 1 show for students at Carleton was one such repeat booking. In 2015, I did a three day-four show swing in the Minneapolis area which included stops at Macalester (another repeat booking this fall), St. Thomas, Carleton, and St. Olaf.
I remember this trip as if it were yesterday: 2015 was the year that really kicked off a different era of my work around the Odyssey. I spent the second half of 2014 more aggressively pursuing bookings around the country, and this tour in February was one of the first fruits of this more intense approach. The show at Macalester was in a big beautiful hall with the longest echo decay I've ever heard. The show at St. Thomas was in a snug reading room in the library: the sub-zero temperatures lead to some radiator pipes joining me as a percussive accompaniment during one of my songs.
The show at St. Olaf was chronicled here in one of my first pieces of press.
The show at Carleton was in a seminar room that I remember as being long and narrow with good intimate lighting. I also remember the students as being very thoughtful and my host (a fellow UW alum) was extremely gracious.
So I was thrilled when he agreed to book me for a virtual show in conjunction with a class of his that was reading the Odyssey this semester. I logged into the Zoom room a little early and he and I caught up: he was actually participating from Athens, Greece. Remote teaching allowed him to be closer to some field work there. I was tickled that my Odyssey was being beamed all the way to its motherland.
The students joined us and I was off into the show. After I finished we had a great discussion. My host and I held a quick post-mortem (one student joined us and told me this was the third time she was hearing me perform the Odyssey - she attended shows at the NJCL in Ohio and North Dakota in 2018 and 2019) and the event was over.
I had surprisingly little about which to complain.
I was however left thinking about Odysseus sitting around Ithaca after he gets home... fussing with some work around the palace... maybe looking longingly at the Ionian water and recalling Tiresias' prophecy, itching to be back out on the wine-dark sea in spite of the unavoidable pains he might suffer on future adventures.
I think I know how he felt.