Archive for September, 2002


Monday, September 23rd, 2002

You know those promotional blurbs I put out publicising the Round every month? Well, they are really fun to write, but I do make it a point not to spend more than 30 minutes writing them. So I loosely adhere to the essential facts about the performers from the bio they send me – then I massage facts, blurt platitudes, squirt upbeat verbage like some demented lapdog – all in the space of that half an hour before I fall comatosed into bed.


Unless I am forced to write something about myself because I will be playing.

Then it takes hours.


You see, it is really odd writing about myself. I mean, it is not as if I have done anything noteworthy to write about. I admire too many unfashionable things to be hip, I know enough about the music biz not to buy into the bullshit, I don’t dance unless you consider impersonating a strangled frog to be dancing, I don’t take my gig face seriously, and I definitely have too many words in my songs to qualify for any Karaoke Songwriter Of The Year pageant. Perhaps you can see how hard it is to write about myself in a positive way. So, like most performers, I often write about myself in the third person just to make myself sound a little more interesting than the hyperactive tequila snotting grunt that I am. And if you’ve never written about yourself in the third person, you should really try it. It’s almost voodoo-like in its strangeness.

I’ll show you what I mean. Consider the following blurb written by me about myself:

“Pete Teo is the producer of the Songwriters’ Round and he was invited to play at the Global Entertainment & Media Summit 2002 in New York…”

See? Suddenly, I sound respectable and quite accomplished. The fact that I got lucky when I was asked to play in New York is conveniently forgotten. The fact that I fumble my way through music (as in almost everything else) is now hidden behind a wall of clinical third person zippideedooda blurbery. The fact that I am pretty much the same akward, difficult, and scared kid as when I was 18 is no longer apparent. And the fact that I have no idea what I am talking about half the time is also cloaked behind a distancing shroud of adult-speak. Hell, I even sound responsible and worthy of being paraded in polite company. Anyway, so now you know why performers tend to write about themselves in third person narrative. I guess its like wearing a suit to the office – it inflates you. You know, like what doctors do when they wear that loony white coat and speak in that hushed tone. Or like when lawyers bring out a big fat file, do that freaky note-taking routine, and…

I could go on like this, but I should really get to the point before you bin me – the point is: I knew all this when I began writing the blurb for Songwriters’ Round 4. You know, I knew I really ought to write about myself in third person narrative and make people take me seriously and all that. But I’ve always been a rebellious and stubborn mule, and on this occasion, decided to write in the first person narrative just for the hell of it. Nothing pricks me more than a rule breaking challenge. Yet, I didn’t want to sound like a clueless idiot. So I thought I’d be real funky and make a few things up about myself just to jazz things up. See if that works. Thus, I made up that bit about wanting to be in a boy band. Then I made up that bit about no one wanting to play in the Round. And I made up that bit about no one ever buying me drinks apart from my friend Iskandar who talks to chicken in his spare time…

Yeah right, no one ever buy me drinks my ass.

And thus we come to the night of the Songwriters’ Round 4, by the end of which I would be plastered.

It all started well enough. Soundcheck was smooth and everyone was fairly relaxed apart from poor Sasha, facing her first ever gig, and suffering from insufficient sleep as well as butterflies. Having also had very little sleep the night before myself, I held on until after soundheck before drinking my first beer. As the room began to fill after 9.00pm, as is normal practice for many performers, I had another beer just to loosen things up a little. Besides, there was a performers’ pool for drinks, and it’d be a shame to be too puritanical about things when there was free alcohol to be had. Anyway, I said hello to old friends as they arrive, chit-chat to new friends, and made sure that Sasha didn’t faint with nerves.

As I was getting ready to start the show, a friend I first met in one of my gigs a year ago walked up to me, two Tequilas in hand, and apologised for not having bought me drinks before – ‘cheers!’ followed immediately by lick, gulp, suck. I said thank you then licked, gulped, and sucked down my first Tequila of the night. A Tequila shooter is to my mind the best drink in the world. It bites like the best of them yet it is smooth and comforting, like a saucy old friend. When taken before a performance, it also makes me extremely chatty, which is quite a good thing because otherwise I tend to behave uncannily like a dried fig onstage. Anyway, boosted by alcohol induced bravado, I overcame the fatigue that had plagued me all afternoon and actually felt really energetic 5 minutes before the show started. One glance across to the bar revealed that Sasha was quietly talking to Sherry, the latter probably trying to ease the former’s pre-gig nerves like a experienced pro that he is. Those of you who’ve yet to experience pre-gig nerves, it has to be felt to be understood really. At its worst (as I suffered when I first started playing in public), it comes across as an extremely unpleasant combination of nausea and fatigue. At its best, you hang on to the bar like your life depended on it then try to look calm. Thus, it was good to see Sasha smiling and looking calm in spite of the nerves.

Anyway, another glance told me that Singletrackmind and Jason was talking to their friends cordially. No sign of discomfort at all. Good Oh. The room is packed with people now, some new faces and others familiar, all drinking and chatting happily. Some folks glare back as though wondering who this skinny bloke is. Another standing room only attendance. Nice.

I waved to Aloq the soundman – dim the lights – we can start.

One of those things you learn quite early on as a performer is that time passes differently when you are onstage. A 45 minute set zips by like 5 minutes. This is especially so when you are playing well. I guess the reason is fairly simple – time flies when you are having a good laugh. And so it was that the first set of the night flew past in Einsteinian zippiness. Jason started and showed us why he’s won so many awards with a confident and professional performance. Singletrackmind wasn’t thrown off by my absent-minded blurting out of his real name in my introduction and sang with assurance and verve. Sasha, like most natural performers, rode out her early nerves a few bars into her first song and gained in confidence as the set went on. The two accompanying guitarists, Shah and Sherry, were both doing a grand job – supporting their singers tastfully and never getting in the way. I did okay too, although I did play everything a little slower than usual. It is also gratifying to hear from many of you that Sherry’s second guitar part to my songs are working out. We did spend a lot of time preparing them, and it is good to know they enhance the songs. Anyway, before I knew it, the first set is over. I began to do what I normally do during the interval, which it to pass my mailing list file around to collect addresses. As I did so, a few people bought me beers, all saying that since no one ever buys me drinks (as advertised in the blurb), they would. I dutifully downed them. Thank you, thank you, how are you?

Then, suddenly, the Tequilas arrived. And everything became a bit of a blur after that.

I don’t remember who fired the first shot. Or who brought more Tequila subsequently. All I know is the following: (i) many sympathise with poor little Pete who no one ever buy drinks for (thank you); (ii) drinks appeared out of nowhere – the waiter sometimes brought me drinks and said simply that someone at the bar bought this for me, no idea who; (iii) I had more than 6 Tequilas shooters during the 20 minutes interval alone, and lost count with other drinks such as beer and T&G; and (iv) by the time we re-started, I was kinda tipsy.

Have you ever been tipsy onstage?


Let me enlighten you then.

First off, your fingers go a bit numb, which for a guitarist can cause problems, naturally. Then you tend to sing way too loud. And everything is funny because you’re overly relaxed into a false sense of security and well-being. All you see are faces, an undifferentiated sea of them, smiling, glaring, drinking, laughing, etc.. Your playing speeds up, sometimes you play way too fast. And if you don’t sit in the right position, you fall off the damn stool, which is terrible for your image. I remember leaning across to Sasha, beamed a drunken smile, and told her I was pissed. She beamed back and said she was the same. I almost fell off my stool but held on at the last minute. I have no idea how we finished the second set without making fools of ourselves, but I subsequently learned that it wasn’t noticeable. I was even told that the performance didn’t suffer – or perhaps folks were just being kind. I do remember, however, that we launched into a group sing of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and I forgot lyrics and fumbled the lead guitar part. I hope it wasn’t too silly.

And if I thought the alcoholic camaradarie was excessive during the interval, it got worse after the second set. More Tequila and everything else. One person even bought me this really strange drink that tasted like petrol. I hope it was mean to be ingested by humans and not automobile. Things were getting seriously out of hand. So much so that it came as a relief to start the open mic segment of the show as I escaped onstage with my head spinning.

I am really grateful that so many people came up to play open mic, Sara (who will be featured in the next Round), Jerome, Sei Hon, Mike, Ijah, Eddie, Jason, Mumbai, Pang and Sherry. As I was by then trying desperately not to let my drunkenness show, everything went like a blur. I do remember Mike’s amazing Spider Song making me laugh out loud. I remember Pang’s performance as being really cool and brave. Jerome and Sei Hon were as unique as always and their Lion Song brilliant. Eddie was nervous and edgy. Ijah effervescent as always. Mumbai, accompanied by Jason and a guitar playing friend, talked and bantered more than he sang. I remember Sherry playing his stuff for what it seemed like an entire set. And I remember being hauled back up to do an extremely bad rendition of ‘Jesselton Tonight’, the highlight of which was hearing a bunch of regulars singing along to the chorus of the song. When I finally got off stage, I remembered that I broke my word – I said in the promo blurb that I wouldn’t play ‘Jesselton Tonight’ – but I gave in at the first sign of crowd request. So cheap and weak-willed. Bah. Jerome came up and teased me about it. Argh. I blamed it on drunkenness.

Then more Tequila shooters as the show wound down. “That’ll teach you to make up stories”, said someone, as another tray of Tequila arrived. Poor me, all I was doing was sitting innocently with a few friends celebrating Sasha’s first gig. Early Bruce Springsteen, Fiona Apple, and Steely Dan made up the sonic backdrop. I tried to count how many drinks I had on the night but lost count. My head was spinning wildly and I regretted ever made up the story that no one ever buys me drinks. But I was a happy boy and began to headbang to the sound of Eva Cassidy. God knows how. Sasha was obviously on a high too, and Sherry following close behind. We weren’t behaving in a way that adults should, but it had been fun. We finally retired to an all night restaurant by about 5am and had proper dinner. By the time we finished stuffing our faces, it was past 6am and our head cleared a little. Sasha said she was glad her first gig is over. The load is off. I assured her there’d be many more to come. Hic. I thought she was very good – she certainly held her own – and the show had been a good one. Hic.

Obviously, others agree with me. When I got home, I checked my mail box and there were several emails saying how much folks enjoyed themselves. I want to say thank you to those of you who wrote. It’s very gratifying to know that people had a good time. Afterwards, I fell asleep on the sofa again and woke up 3 hours later with a massive hangover. I had a noon meeting and had to sit in some lawyer’s office for a 5 hour meeting nursing a throbing head and nodding a lot. Sad.

Oh well. Thanks to everyone who came down and being such a wonderful audience. And thanks to those who signed up to this list. And I should re-iterate that there will be no October Round as I’ll be in the studio. For the next 6-7 weeks, I’ll concentrate on getting the record done. Anyway, I hope to see you guys again in late November. I’ll leave you with the lesson that you should never say things like ‘no one buys me drinks’ if you value your sobriety. As for my friend Iskandar, his name is indeed Iskandar, and he does talk to chicken. He buys me lots of drinks – as many of you did on Friday night. Thank you so very much. I try not to blame you for my hangover.

Have a good month. If you remain good boys and girls, I’ll demonstrate the art of snotting Tequila through my nose next time we party.

Loads to do. Bye for now.