Behind the Scenes
Doing Whatever It Takes to Make It Through
Last Sunday afternoon, I mounted a lovely show at the French House in Nashville. This is the home of my dear friend and local matriarch-to-all Jocelyne. (She is sweetly eccentric and delightfully French.) We scheduled this show months ago. Rehearsals were planned. A set list was finalized. All was going well until a week before the show.
Starting the Sunday before, my own body became my worst enemy. A sticky sore throat quickly evolved into heavy chest congestion, a slight fever, and a constantly runny nose. Uncontrollable coughing fits mired my singing.
I was miserable, but I fought back. For starters, I took a COVID test that gave me a negative result. I received acupuncture from my friend Bashi, who also gave me a small battalion of herbal supplements to shore up my defenses. I used up a high dosage of Ibuprofen that my mom gave me. I ingested a steady flow of herbal mint tea and kept my chest swathed in a menthol rub. I stayed horizontal and slept as much as possible. By the Friday before the show, the symptoms had diminished. All that was left was a cough and a bit of congestion.
To avoid unnecessary fatigue, my partner MaxZine and I dropped off my keyboard and other heavy equipment at the French House on Saturday, the day before the show. (A lesson I learned in the past is that it is far better to make the day of a show as labor-free as possible. One’s body and spirit can only take so much.)
With one Ibuprofen and a thermos of warm tea, my voice made it through the entire set of 11 songs with ease. Here is a photo of the set list that was taped to my keyboard during the show. (Note the words of encouragement at the bottom. Ru would be proud.)
The show was designed to have a good bit of variety. I stood up to sing almost as much as I sat at my keyboard. A meditative a cappella adaptation of my song The Boy in the Room opened the show and was quickly followed by the ruckus of my song Villain. My favorite song to play at the moment, Hello Mexico, was a proud moment for me. (Andrew’s guitar work on this song literally makes my heart melt.) Only two ballads made the cut for the show. One was my jazzy solo rendition of Moon River by Henry Mancini, and the other was my soaring tribute to the heartbroken with Shadows Dance. Speaking of dancing, several folks got up to dance when we played Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.
I bookended the set list with songs I dedicated to the people of Gaza. The Boy in the Room, being a rumination on personal freedom, highlighted the ongoing open-air imprisonment that Palestinians have now lived in for over a half-century in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The final song, The Hollowing, is about staying close to and supporting a loved one in a dark and difficult place. I used it as a call for solidarity with the Palestinians—a way to sonically and energetically send healing and strength halfway across the world to a place where Israeli attacks have now killed over 17,000 Palestinians (most of whom have been women and children).
For anyone who has not heard it yet, here is a previously recorded version of The Boy in the Room:
My days of being an understated performer are pretty much over. For all my shows in 2023, I have decked myself out in fine fabrics lined with gold accents and some beautiful Filipino cultural couture. I was already decked out in a sparkly, long black ensemble until my mom and sister asked what I was wearing underneath. At the last minute, they insisted I remove the black covering because what I had hidden inside was far more interesting. Jocelyne then proceeded to add gold ribbon to my hair. Needless to say, I felt fabulous. Gold looks majestic on brown skin.
(I am also experimenting with makeup. I adorned one eye with waves of color for this show. See photo at the top of this issue.)
Despite my health struggles leading up to the show, the entire experience was a solid success. We had a full house and a gracious audience.
For better or worse, my adventures did not end on the night of the show. Just as I was finally getting over my symptoms, I decided to get the new COVID vaccine last Tuesday (just two days after the show). I have gotten very sick with earlier vaccines, but even though this time was not as bad as previous ones, it was terrible in one specific way. I had the expected bouts of a slight fever, throbbing headache, and heavy fatigue, but what I did not see coming was the intense diarrhea. Think of the film The Exorcist if all that stuff came out the other end. I had a long night of misery as my body expelled more than I ever thought it could. Yes, it was a pretty gross outpouring accompanied by stomach pains and nausea.
As I type this on an early Friday morning, I am feeling better. I had additional acupuncture from Bashi yesterday, and he gave me more herbal supplements to heal the diarrhea. My stomach has calmed down. There is no more fever or headache.
Since I have mostly been sick and catatonic this last week, I could not go on an Artist Date. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling (or sitting on a toilet staring at a wall) while I groaned in misery pretty much summed up this last week.
The lesson I learned from all of this is that in the future, from the instance that my throat starts to feel all icky and swollen, it does not hurt to aggressively take action with medication and rest. If I had been more proactive at the onset, the ensuing symptoms might not have been as bad. I need to learn to be more attuned to my body in these ways.
Later today, my dear husband MaxZine and I will fly to Florida to visit his mom. I will also have a show on Sunday while we are there. Next week’s issue of WPR will be a colorful and hopefully illness-free affair.
Thanks to those of you who made it out to my show at the French House. A lot of thought and effort goes into these performances. My bandmates and I work to put on an entertaining show with lots of depth and texture.
Being able to share my music with audiences means the world to me, and I am eternally grateful for every chance I get.
12/10/2023: Piano Sessions at Aviva in Sarasota, FL
12/15—12/17: SHROC (Southern Human Rights Organizers Conference) at TSU campus in Nashville, TN. More details TBA.
To listen to my music, watch my films, or see my visual art, please visit:
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