Okay, I'd like to make a bit of a public apology.
Last night, I performed at Word of Mouth at Norwich Arts Centre, supporting the excellent Pete the Temp with the nicely surreal John Simpson Wedge and the gently confident compere Dan Gregory. I think everyone had a grand old time, and Amy ran a fantastic gig all round. Lovely stuff!
As I mentioned during my performance, it was slightly odd for me as I hadn't been back in Norwich for a few years, not since July 2004. And it was fantastic to be welcomed by one of my best friends, Jon, who I met at my first year of uni and we've remained close ever since.
Problems arose, however, at the open mic after the NAC gig. By that time I had had a few drinks, and was with Jon in the pub with a couple of his friends. We were drinking and chatting during the performances at the open mic, and I had put my name down for it. I decided to do one of the poems I had already performed (which, due to the alcohol, was a weaker performance and I shouldn't have done it), and three haikus I just like messing around with.
Again, due to the booze, I was in my own world, and talking to an old friend who I hadn't seen in months. I was then jolted out of my revelry by one of the poets onstage saying “Captain Fuckface – shut up”. In my haze I was a little annoyed, but didn't say anything and carried on chatting, left the pub, ate a veggie burger and chips and crashed out.
I woke up this morning on Jon's sofa with that uneasy combination of hangover and anxiousness as my brain was deciding whether or not I had fucked up. I don't drink that much that often and am well aware that the total gobshite in me can emerge while my inebriated brain goes “Yeah! Go on Paul! You're being a charmer!”, and while everyone is in fact staring at me like I'm throttling a kitten.
I texted Amy saying thanks for the gig. Having as yet received no reply, my presumption was that I'd fucked up. This blog (http://carminamasoliver.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/carmina-of-the-rant/) written by Carmina Masoliver, who attended both the NAC gig and the open mic, confirmed it.
Carmina says some very kind words about my performance which is always lovely to hear, but extremely gracious under the circumstances. Those circumstances being that she is understandably disappointed in me that I talked throughout the open mic session. She writes:
“...the main thing for me was that Captain of the Rant and his friends ruined it for me. A guy I know from UEA’s CWS ranted about the Captain himself, calling him ‘Captain of the Fuckface’ or something… anyway, I was glad, he deserved it and I’d hoped he felt bad, but him and his mates kept on chatting. As I was impressed with his act both times I’d seen him, I was disappointed in him and I was just gutted to be honest, absolutely gutted... It’s just rude to talk over spoken word, open mic or not...”
I can only presume that others feel the same, and this makes me feel genuinely terrible. I hate seeing unprofessional attitudes in anyone, regardless of their perceived 'level' in their field. And to become that, even just for one time, makes me very angry with myself. A lot of acts attended the NAC gig, and listened attentively and gave a great response. I did not return that respect and can only apologise. A mixture of booze-driven ignorance, having an excessively loud voice and the excitement of seeing an old friend are literally my only defences, which basically equal to saying I have no defence. The poet who called me “Captain Fuckface” did exactly the right thing and, as Carmina writes, I did deserve it, and I deserve Carmina's criticisms too.
A lot of my poetry is about respect, about brushing away socially-enforced rules and respecting people as equals. I failed to live up to the ideas I talk about constantly in my spoken word, so I've not only disappointed other artists I should have been more respectful toward, I've also disappointed myself and have fallen well below my own aims as an artist.
I can fully understand Carmina's presumptions that because I perform a lot that I find it a chore and other acts are a bus man's holiday. I assure you, this is not the case. I have nothing but love for the spoken word scene and I deeply regret I did not show it fully that night.
So, to summarise: I am deeply sorry if I aggravated, annoyed or disappointed anyone. I'm sorry that my behaviour at the open mic prevented the audience and performers being able to enjoy the night fully. And I'm sorry for not showing due respect to all performers.
I can assure you that anyone who knows me professionally will attest that I am not usually drunken, boorish and obnoxious throughout gigs or in any other aspect of my professional (or social) life. This was an unfortunate, rare incident and will not be repeated.
I've learned a valuable lesson tonight, and think it's amazing that there is such a solid spoken word scene that will openly criticise artists and allow them to build on their mistakes. I think it's great that other artists have the medium, inclination and strength of character to call other artists out when their blatantly being twats.