Playing Live

I took up playing guitar at the age of 15 and made it my profession at 25. With 10 years of solid playing, most of my live performance has been in pubs. I have never been the player who performed ‘under the influence’ . . . band members around me did drink alcohol and take drugs, but I was there for the music. I was there to better my craft, my skill, and allow through me this ability to play smoothly.

If I played well and satisfied my own self-critique then it was a good gig. People from the audience telling me how good the gig was – or my playing was – didn’t carry much weight; all that mattered was how I judged my playing on the night. Was my playing hot, technically correct? It was a game of self-worth – I was there to satisfy myself.

When I went to concerts or music festivals as a punter I was there for the music and rarely took drugs or alcohol. I went to these events for the magic in the music so I didn’t want to miss out by being wasted.

The buzz for me was seeing how the power of the music could control the audience. I still remember my first concert at 15 years of age and seeing 10,000 people all waving their fists and chanting the lyrics in unison. This was the buzz that hooked me into playing, and that is what I wanted to be able to do.

At that time I saw the musicians as having the craft to influence all these people and I thought it was magical to be a part of and witness.

I saw this again at 16 years of age at a New Year’s Eve gig in a small surf club. Everybody in the club was singing and waving their fists together. The same power and influence could happen in a much smaller venue – it wasn’t reserved to only large stadiums. This is what I considered the magic and power of music to be – the buzz, the experience of a great gig. I realised then that I too would be able to do this with music.

“My mates may be better at sport, but I would be untouchable, number 1, when it came to playing music.”

When I started playing for money I made sure that I was sober so that I could deliver. For a long time I thought ‘that is what people want’ and that it was my job to make sure I was able and fully prepared to deliver the music for them, to have the buzz that I had experienced and witnessed.

As I played more gigs and got better and more comfortable being on stage, I reached a point where I knew that I would consistently provide skilled playing, and so to a degree felt confident and competent.

However, I began to notice that most of the audiences weren’t really listening at all. No one was interested in the ability that I had developed and what I was playing . . . everyone was too busy drinking and trying to talk to the prettiest girl in the pub. Why was I really here if no one actually cared about the music? Mostly it was drunk people that you played to – people who aren’t fussed about what music is being played – and for them the band is the background to have music to drink to. Over time I developed contempt for the audiences.

I played the pub scene for 7 years, ultimately gaining a reputation as the band ‘to get’ if you wanted a good night. We played at the opening of a venue that had been closed for a year for major renovations and to be the chosen band provided a stamp of approval, a mark of recognition. It was ‘one of those nights’ that I experienced as a teenager. The place was absolutely packed. From the stage we couldn’t get through the crowd to get to the bar or the toilets, there were so many people. We played and had them eating out of our hands. That ‘magic’ that I had witnessed as a teenager was there. Yet it didn’t change me or feel magical at all . . . it just felt like I was playing to a bunch of drunken people. Where was the magic? I didn’t feel any more powerful or satisfied – in fact it was the opposite: I felt disappointed and at one point I felt scared because it was like the place could have erupted.

From on the stage, it felt like if I wanted to I could have incited a riot that would have torn the place apart. The place was on edge. I was receiving recognition from the crowd but none of it felt right; it didn’t feel fulfilling at all.

I knew that to continue playing would be doing more of the same . . . playing to more people and possibly bigger venues, but they are all the same. The little pub is the same as the big opening nights – just different stages.

After attending some Universal Medicine presentations where music was spoken about – how energy works with music and the real effects it has on the body, to all those who listen to it – I began to understand and learn why I felt the way I did about playing pub music. This didn’t change my love for rock music or the sound of it that I was deeply attracted to, but it did confirm in me that music wasn’t going to take me to the place I was longing for. Not that I had a clear picture of what that place was anyway. Music for me then was just a medium that took the edge off life, providing a temporary feeling of relief.

I stopped playing music completely for some time.

After this break I took up the invite to play bass with Chris James. Chris’ music is a long way from the rock music I played, however it is music that invites you to join in and celebrate yourself through the songs. It took a while, but after many gigs it came to me that I was allowed to completely enjoy myself and in fact if I do, the musical experience for all is greater.

No longer was performing something separate from me, a skill and an ability that I went through the motions of for the enjoyment of others and recognition for me. Performing was me right there, allowing it to happen however it is going to happen, loving the opportunity to share with others my expression.

In my public gigs now, with the understanding that what comes through me is energy, and that who I am is passed on through my music, I am not ‘looking for something’ in the music anymore. I have experienced that as a ceaseless journey that is never going to completely fulfil you. Gigs previously served as time where it was ‘all about Daniel’, and no one could come in and interfere with this time and space . . . essentially hiding myself in my music bubble that no one could enter because I was the one playing and controlling the whole thing.

Now, with that emptiness largely gone, music and playing live feels completely different and is simpler than it has ever been. It’s light, fantastic, fun, joyful, playful . . . using my skills to provide an opportunity for others to experience the joy of music.

These days it is nothing to do with what I play – the technique, the scales, the approach notes etc – it’s all about Daniel being Daniel and playing his instrument. That’s it. I used to play hard aggressive sounding music because I was raging inside myself and I thought it was a safe way in which I could be aggressive. It allowed me to relieve that rage – I was able to get some of it out, not considering that I was passing it onto others. I never intended to do that, I have never wanted to hurt anyone. I chose music because I thought it was a harmless way to get it out . . . I was only playing music, it is only a sound . . . but that isn’t the reality.

These days if the song is not about celebrating yourself or others, about love, admiration etc, then I don’t play it. When I play gigs now the faces of people light up. They smile, laugh, sometimes cry but they normally laugh after the cry. The body posture changes – you can see people asking themselves if they are allowed to go there and feel this good – like ‘I really want to open up and celebrate but what will happen if I do?’ Also, this is why I love playing to children because they do go there and share love, joy and having a magnificent time.

When I play from the real Daniel it is simply not possible to dismiss the audience. The reception is welcoming and accepting. There is no separation; the audience is part of the music and I am not the music, but the same as the audience . . . part of the music and the experience.

I am no longer the man I once was; my outlook on who I am and life itself has changed from grinding through life to celebrating what I have and all that I can bring. Building the appreciation and love in my body, as shown to me by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, is the best thing that has ever happened to me with regards to music . . . and everything else.

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MusiciansEmotionsEnergy in musicPerformance anxietyMusic

  • By Daniel Bennier

  • Photography: Clayton Lloyd