PERFORMANCE ANXIETY AND THE MODERN ARTIST
You're at a live show of your favorite artist of choice. You've been standing for hours, listening to opening acts, anticipating your artist to hit the stage. They finally come on, looking cool and natural, and jammin out in excitement to their best songs. They play their final song and leave the stage and you stand there satisfied by the performance. Your favorite artist walks backstage and the moment they do, they nearly collapse from their nerves hitting them all at once. They crouch down and take a breather, compose themselves, and carry on.
A lot of fans of music never really think about it, but hundreds of musicians and artists suffer from performance anxiety. Just the thought of being on stage, performing for hundreds or thousands of fans and trying not to disappoint them can be nothing short of draining. Different performers can show it in different ways: it could be pre-performance shakes, stomach problems, nausea, or as I described before, just collapsing after a performance.
I've seen and heard stories of all these things, especially when I suffered from some of these symptoms when I was a performer. Before every performance I did with my band Barikuda Deathwish, I would get these uncontrollable shakes and nausea just from the anxiety of putting on a bad performance. To counter this, I would sometimes take a shot, or down a beer, or take a puff or two, just to get myself leveled. One of the worst times where my performance anxiety was noticeable was during one of my later solo performances. My legs where shaking during the first song as I moved across the stage and I had zero confidence in what I was saying. It wasn't until I made eye contact with my friends and saw them rocking with me that I started to shed off that anxiety and just went in. All in all, the whole performance wasn't my favorite, but it was memorable.
Now, I'm nothing more than a local artist and the biggest shows I've played at have had around 300 people in the audience, but even seasoned veterans who perform all the time in front of thousands of people suffer the same.
My close friend, Ruben Cardenas, is one half of the Grammy nominated EDM group SMLE. He does shows every weekend, flies across the country for shows, has played at Ultra dance music festival and overseas, and every single performance he does still drains him. When he gets anxious, he gets extreme amounts of nausea and typically has a bucket behind his DJ set up just in case. One of my favorite stories of his was when he was playing one of his first major festivals and in the middle of their set, Ruben leaned behind the set up and quickly threw up...and he still didn't miss a beat during his set. No one noticed, not even his groupmate Lewie who was standing next to him.
Anxiety sucks in every sense, especially having performance anxiety in a career where you need to perform on a weekly basis as part of your livelihood. There's this common misconception that anxiety dissipates as you become adjusted to something, but as we can see from Ruben, that isn't always the case. This goes to anyone who suffers with anxiety, sometimes you must tough through it for the sake of your passions.
As a fan of anyone artist, always be appreciated towards the effort they put towards making you happy. Not only do they make the music you listen to. Not only do they live on the road for the sake of letting more fans see them. Not only do they need to rehearse. Most importantly, they hit that stage and must put on the facade of seeming cool and natural without ever missing a beat, regardless of what they're going through. They do this all for the love of their passion, and of course, because no one ever wants to disappoint a fan.
Click here to check out SMLE's instagram.