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Memoir - Playing Music in a Band


Submitted By redcap
Words 1401
Pages 6
There’s no place like home.
By Kha Lehuu I remember thinking when I was younger and in the crowd that I one day would be able to use the stage as my own world for half an hour. That I would just close my eyes and let my fingers and voice tell two to five minute short stories to fill up that half hour time slot. Up there I would have a sense of comfort, a sense of serenity. When I was growing up I always heard music playing throughout the house. Whether it would be a traditional Vietnamese song or Michael Jackson, I would always get really into it. My father loved music and he loved his guitar. I can remember him playing it late at night after he put my little brother to bed and sang old Vietnamese songs at my bedside until I fell asleep. We weren’t rich at the time and we lived in a poor neighborhood, but needless to say the house was rich with music all the time. I would wake up in the morning, take a shower, and get ready for the day and prepare for what could be a short hour drive to possibly a 22-hour drive to the next destination. Every day had the same routine, but the best part about this routine was telling the crowd my story. I remember my first tour, which was down the Midwest, hitting states from Wisconsin down to Texas while I was only 14 or 15 at the time. I was playing in a band with all older people, and with this came some perks and some downfalls. Why my parents would let me go out of state for a week to three weeks at a time is unknown. All I know is, it was an experience of a lifetime. Driving down the interstate while looking at directions that you printed off the night before from Google Maps and not knowing where anything was can be quite the challenge, but singing along to a playlist on the iPod with friends you call brothers made everything that much better. I can recall getting lost multiple times, trying to scrounge up change because of an unexpected toll booth, or even getting pulled over by the cops. I realized that within these couple of weeks that you leave the comforts of home and struggle to live in this new world, there is one thing that keeps you sane – playing music. Everyone wants to get away from home, I hear the words “I have to get out of this place” almost every day, or at least a variation of it. When you actually get a chance to leave this so-called hellhole, you start to miss it. Then you’ll start to realize that home is where the heart is, that is until you unpack your equipment from the van and start setting up at the venue. Your mind forgets everything and just focuses on playing music. This rush fills your mind and your brain lets passion take over. Most people have stage fright, but here I felt right at home. I’ve toured with a full band before and it can be quite the exhilarating experience, but it can also be the most dreadful thing you will ever endure. When you cramp into a van along with your equipment and with 4 or 5 other smelly guys, it can get nasty real quick. You’ll learn odd quirks that people have that you never knew before; hygiene is a word only heard by some guys, and you’ll also soon realize that you can only deal with people for a certain amount of time. After my first tour with my former band No Dance No Romance, I started to shift away from playing with multiple people due to moving out of state and trying to find new members for another band. I soon gave up the thought of a band and started my up my solo acoustic act. I bought a new acoustic guitar, collectively named Lola, and with her I started to write. It took two years for me to come out of my acoustic shell and start to play music outside of my room; no one heard any of it but a few close friends who came over or the few people who received a lifeless attempt of recording called a demo. I missed playing music for people, with this thought I contacted several people that I knew from the past and set up a few shows in my hometown. Using the only tools available to me at the time, me and my mouth, I would promote my shows and attempt to get a crowd to come out. At first only friends would come out, but when word spread around about my music, more people started to come. By the end of the first year after breaking out of the cocoon I started to be somewhere in the local music scene, or that’s what I would like to think. People would come up and ask if I had any demo’s or CDs, ask if I had music up on my Myspace page, any merchandise, etc. It became overwhelming. I didn’t know that something so small could explode into something that people wanted to hear. I didn’t expect people to like my music and at first it was difficult to realize, but after a while I got back on track and set foot into recording my first EP. I started to play more shows on bigger stages after a few years of café shows. I had the chance to open up for acts such as Secondhand Serenade, We the Kings, Boys Like Girls, Anthony Green, and David Choi. There are so many more bands I have opened up for, but the thing about these guys is I considered them my inspiration. To say that I have been able to play music with bands I have looked up too is quite mind boggling. I smile every time I say it or see old pictures of me playing on the stage knowing that I had the chance to start the crowd. Nothing beats the moment I opened up for my old hometown’s local act Bon Iver. Justin Vernon, the original member of Bon Iver, was someone I just used to jam with at the local music shop called Morgan Music. After the release of his first solo EP, his music got big – really fast. He got signed on to an international label and toured everywhere in the world. When he came back to Eau Claire after his first tour, he asked me to open up for him. I couldn’t believe it. I had a 4-month time frame from when he asked me to create material and 4 months to make sure it was something I enjoyed playing. Countless hours of having swollen fingertips, a phlegm filled throat, and several broken strings, I completed the 30 min set that I wanted play. It was something meant to impress Justin, to impress my old hometown, and of course impress my self. This would take place at the State Varsity Theatre, a place I wasn’t familiar with. I felt as if I was ready to play this show that was until I looked into the crowd. This show would be the first show I would ever play with stage fright. So many thoughts ran through my mind and the majority of them were thoughts of negativity. I muttered to myself, “You got this in the bag. You are going to go play your best and not have a care in the world if the people hate it or not.” Of course I was lying to myself, I did care if people liked it or not - I was honestly scared for the first time. The crowd got settled and then the curtains rolled up. It was my time to shine. My baby, Lola, she gets up on stage with me and as I put her over my shoulder she glistens underneath that stage light. The grains of her rosewood neck and the koa wood body shine to the crowd. I start to strum and tell my short stories to the crowd. My baby and I are the attention. We are at home.

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