My fingers are patched up and I made it through a couple hours of rehearsing this morning. The thumb splits reopened but the crack in the left middle finger held. I’ve resealed the splits and reinforced the middle finger crack with a liquid bandage that I started applying yesterday. I have another rehearsal tonight of about three hours, one tomorrow night, Friday night and then a gig opening for The Tubes Saturday night. With the liquid bandage I think I’ll be all right and not get too bloody. The good news is that I just had my physical, along with my bloodwork coming back in. No blood borne pathogens here, which is what I thought but it’s always good to have that type of opinion backed by science to prove it to be fact. Oh, and I have a TV gig tomorrow afternoon as well, a taping session of three tunes that’s part of a Valentine’s Day program featuring Chicago area blues acts. It’s at the Comcast Studios in Waukegan, Illinois, so here’s to that.
It wasn’t as cold in the basement this morning as it was last Thursday when the splits popped open on my thumb. Playing in cooler environments provides me with some physical challenges. For one thing, when the temperature is creeping under sixty degrees my hands stay quite dry, as well as the skin staying cold. This creates a situation where the skin isn’t as flexible as it is in warmer temperatures, which leads to a greater potential for damaging it as occurred last week. Additionally, the cooler it gets the colder the hands get no matter how hard the fingers are working. What normally presents no speed issues suddenly breeds them as my hands simply never adequately warm up. This also can increase the potential for acquiring a repetitive stress injury, because the muscles aren’t working in an optimal environment for relaxed movement. Cold tends to exacerbate stiff tendons and muscles creating more tension than normally present, as well.
Right around sixty degrees used to be fine for me, but I’m getting older and my circulation isn’t what it used to be. I have gigged outdoors when the temperatures have dropped into the low fifties, upper forties, which is downright unpleasant for a string player or any other player who can’t perform with gloves. When I was in the southwest gigging, there were many outdoor gigs that started out at a comfortable temperature but had dropped pretty low after the sun went down and time spun along. This was in the late fall and early winter, then early spring. We did a lot of outdoor gigs during that time frame. It’s pleasant to begin with, and many of the places have tall propane space heaters spread out across the patios, which keeps the folks outside eating and drinking for the evening, so you do your best to stay warm and play your heart out even if your fingers are starting to go numb.
I no longer live in the southwest. Up here in the Chicago area, the outdoor gigs are over by the time October rolls in. The restaurants that have music and patio dining start moving things inside as the weather starts getting dicey, so inside is the place to be. The rehearsal areas are another thing, though, particularly if you’re not long on paying rent for a rehearsal space. Band members’ basements are the preferred locations in this case, but they’re often not the warmest areas, particularly in the older homes like mine. It’s still warmer than the garage with a kerosene heater though, and I’ve done plenty of time in those as well. There, it can get painful after awhile though and the concrete flooring never really does warm up enough for my feet to not feel like ice blocks. The basement is much better if the rest of the family can deal with the additional “noise.”
I get cracks every winter regardless of where I rehearse though, so it’s just something I have to deal with. We all have something that we’ve simply got to play through, and we do what we can to insure that the job gets done. For instance, Johnny A, an incredible guitarist who does awesome instrumental rock/lounge music has scoliosis, curvature of the spine. Standing with his guitar strapped to his body for performance purposes causes him a great deal of pain, so he sits either on a stool or a chair for his performances. It’s what works for him, so it’s what works best for the audience as well because he gives a great concert when he’s not in pain. He and I share this issue, although mine isn’t as bad as his. In my case I use the chair for rehearsals and gigs where I don’t have any room to move around. If I’m stuck in one spot wedged in between the drummer and someone else all night, I’m in agony the next day. Other people have other issues that they deal with as well.
The key to all of this is finding a way that makes the situation doable, like Johnny A with his chair, or sealing my cracked fingertips in as many coats of dab on bandage that will stay put. There’s always going to be something that has the potential to create an impediment to a solid performance, and part of a performer’s responsibility is finding a way through the problem that delivers the goods expected. Whether it’s summer heat, too much sweat gunking up the hands, mosquitos or whatever else the situation throws at you, it’s up to you to solve it one way or another, meet the commitment, and play your heart out regardless. Now, it’s about time for another coat of liquid bandage. . .