Working Your Show: Dealing With Insecurity

As a music teacher I have a duty to build up my students but also to keep it real.  I stress the balance between believing in yourself (working your show) and being honest with yourself (breaking it down).  An artist needs a healthy ego, but students (and we are all students at some level) need to have critical self-awareness in order to improve and grow.  One of the main ways we find that balance between confidence and growth is accepting the challenge of insecurity.

There are lots of ways to feel insecure, and lots of ways to describe the feelings of doubt, despair, frustration and all that good stuff.   I think it is helpful to stay grounded in the music.  Other triggers for insecurity (body image, family history, personal relationships) should be dealt with in appropriate ways, but they are peripheral to the space/time ritual of music performance.  So, seek strength in the music to work through feelings of insecurity.

What does this mean in practice?

A) Separate your ego from the music.  This means accepting the challenges of musical growth while never doubting that you are the center of your universe.  When you have doubts (“Am I good enough?”, “Am I just one among thousands of wannabe rockstars?”, “Why is this so hard?”), it is usually because you’re letting your ego wander into the area of critical thought.  That’s not where it belongs.  It belongs in the imagination, in the ritual space/time.  Critical thinking is useful when directed toward specific tasks, like researching, rehearsing, refining.  Don’t confuse emotion with analysis.

B) Insecurity is a helpful adaptive trait: It is your mind telling you to be more observant, so you can adapt to your environment.  If you respond to feelings of insecurity by looking outward, trying to learn more, not accepting limitations, then you will continue to grow.  It is emotionally hard work, but this approach leads you forward and creates tangible results.

C) There is a cycle to taking on a challenge.  First there is the desire to get there, be the thing you dream.  Then there is the resistance, the work, as you move from where you’re at to where you want to be.  Finally there is the elation and satisfaction of making progress.  After that there is usually the awareness (and emotional low) that accomplishing your goal only opened the door to another challenge ahead.  We all have to learn how to deal with the emotional ups and downs of that cycle, and making insecurity a tool for critical awareness and improvement.

Now, on with the show!

Paul’s Fall Projects

After an energizing tour through New England, it’s great to be back in Austin.  I have a array of shows lined up through the fall, bringing out some new compositions for my various bands.  Manteca Beat, My Exotic Other, and Paul Klemperer’s Jazz have shows around town in September and October.  Also, I’ll be doing a short tour with Sangeet Millennium up to Oklahoma the last week of September.

There are some exciting new house concert shows taking shape.  It’s a great way to hear music in an intimate setting.  Also, MeetUp is a good way for people to organize their own social events and support live music at the same time.  I think both of these trends are bringing some good energy into Austin’s live music scene and I will continue to support them as much as I can.

I’m working on a new recording project which will be connected to Kickstarter.  The idea is to involve fans and music supporters in the creative process.  I’ll have details soon, so let me know if this interests you.

Onward into the fall!

– Paul Klemperer

Moon Child Rising

Thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate my birthday in fine style this July.  I started off the festivities at the Manteca Beat house concert, where I unveiled some original songs that had been in the works for awhile.  We taped that show, so if we got any good live versions of the new material I’ll make it available to interested parties soon.

Then I had a big throwdown at the Elephant Room, with many friends, musical guests and a big ol’ mocha cream cake.  Quite yummy.  My band at the ‘Phant was David Marsden on guitar, Steve Summer on drums, and Russell Scanlon hammering out the bass notes (everybody knows him as one of Austin’s best guitar players, but he played some amazing stuff on electric bass that night).  We played a bunch more originals, and I want to thank the fellas for letting me use them as guinea pigs, lab rats, or whatever the appropriate metaphor is.

I have a few more shows happening in July, then I’m making a quick tour to Los Angeles with Larry Lange, followed by a much-needed trip to the ancestral homeland to visit the parental units back in Boston.  September’s going to be busy with new shows, so I hope to have my batteries charged, spiritual sparkplugs perfectly gapped, etc., as the musical clown car takes off again.

(I was going to use a Formula One analogy, but try as I might, I just can’t get on board.)

Festival Music

I had a great time a couple weeks ago at the Old Settlers Music Festival in Dripping Springs.  I played a set with the Jitterbug Vipers in the evening, then hung out and jammed til the wee hours at the campsite.

Here’s a sample of the music…

“They Raided The Joint”

“Adder On A Ladder”


Theme Music by P.K.S.A.X.

I have been working on adding more cultural elements to my shows, particularly with Manteca Beat.  Over the years I’ve been fortunate to play with musicians from all over the world, and I like drawing from these influences in my own music, playing classic songs from all over, and writing my own material.

I’ve also been fortunate to travel and play music in many wonderful settings – Europe, Turkey, Latin America, Asia… and deep in the heart of Texas.  I’ve accumulated pictures, stories, and friends from these experiences, and I’m trying to incorporate them into my shows with theme-nights.

Manteca Beat put on a really fun show in April at Tom’s Tabooley:  Cuba Night.  We played classic Cuban songs, some originals inspired by my trip there, and showed slides of the trip.  Also offered Cuba Libres, of course!  The response from folks was great, so we’ll be doing another Cuba Night.  Also in the works are Asia Night, and Mediterranean Night.

it’s going to be an interesting summer!

-Paul Klemperer

The Music In Us

Two news items struck me this morning: Etta James passed away, and President Obama began an appearance at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater by singing the first line of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”


There are many things one could say about all that, but my first thought was that the two headlines, appearing next to each other, reflect how much music is part of our daily life, our national identity. Music in a good way, not scary anthems chanted by jackbooted gangs, or seductive jingles designed by Madison Avenue staff psychologists. Music bubbling up from the people, reflecting what we have in common, rather than what divides us.


I have played in a lot of cover bands over the years. Etta James’ version of “At Last” and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” were both so popular that any self-respecting cover band had to know them. Bar gigs, corporate gigs, weddings, birthday parties… people always requested those songs (among other classics like “Mustang Sally”, “Proud Mary”, “Respect”…).


Of course, musicians sometimes get tired of being human juke boxes, but these songs are so good, little gems that almost play themselves if you let yourself be the vehicle for their expression, that I never get tired of playing them (at least when the band can play them well!), and I never get tired of seeing the unifying effect they have on people.


When I saw that Etta James, an ordinary person with an extraordinary voice, had passed on, the sadness was overshadowed by the thought of how much her music follows me around, follows all of us around, and adds to our lives.


This thought was reinforced by the other headline, as I imagined Barak Obama, the President of the United States, launching into “I’m so in love…” as easily as any public figure might quote Shakespeare, Lincoln, or King. Because the lyrics and the melody are so much a part of our national consciousness, that singing a snippet of a song can express beautifully and clearly our shared history, identity and humanity.


So, it was sad to see another musical icon has died, but it was good to be reminded of what the music in us is really all about.


Not to sound like a broken record (scratched CD? corrupted data file? what is the appropriate 21st century simile?), but the year is careening towards its finish and it seems like all the grand plans I had for 2011 are sitting in half-finished heaps all around me. I know a lot of you fellow procrastinators get the same feeling as the new year approaches. But I did get a nugget of wisdom from Brigid at Tom’s Tabooley the other night, along with my gyro sandwich: It helps to take a moment, sit down and take stock of all that you have gotten done, over the past week, past month, etc.

In the flurry of daily chores it’s easy to lose track of the things we actually accomplish, or at least the many things that demand we do them. There are the grand schemes and projects we chip away at, but there are also the necessary things that need to get done each week and (we hope) add up to something over time. It does help to take a moment to reflect on all that we do get done.

I try to use my recurring monthly shows in part to do that, take a moment to reflect on all that we do, the community we create every day through our combined (though often uncoordinated) efforts. I really appreciate the presence of my friends at my shows; I know you all have busy and stressful lives and I hope that my music helps you unwind a little, gives you a space to hang out with old and new friends, and gives you a moment to reflect on all that you have done.

This month I have several special shows: 11/12 I team up with Sangeet Millennium for the Global Divas concert, which will feature touring Indian singer Kirwan Ahluwalia…11/13 My Exotic Other adds their music to a benefit for the Red Cross at Central Market…11/18 Manteca Beat returns to the Ham Jam House for an intimate house concert.

And then it’s on into December!

– Paul Klemperer

October Happenings

It feels a little more like fall in Texas, not so much because of the calendar but more because we had two great days of rain and the land seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Evidence of the drought is still all around, but the brutal days of summer are fading into memory. I played a show out at Lake Travis last week, at the Oasis Complex which now includes Uncle Billy’s. The sunsets are as beautiful as ever out there, but the lake itself looks drastically different, almost like a different country, with the exposed limestone shelves staircasing down to the ever-receding water line. I watched a few motorboats moving in tight circles, looking like tadpoles trapped in an evaporating mudhole. But like I said, the sunsets are still beautiful, and Uncle Billy’s has some good cold beer.
I’ve been having a great time playing with San Antonio bassist Joel Dilley. We teamed up with sarode player Rick Henderson for a concert with his Indian fusion group Ragavatar at the Blue Star Art Complex on October 2. Then Joel and his lovely wife Bett Butler brought me in to play the Botanical Gardens Moonlight Festival October 15, with Philip Marshall swinging on drums. That was a beautiful evening, with thousands of festival goers strolling between the 5 stages.
October 22 I play the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival. Looking forward to seeing the Texas coast!

July News

If you are reading this, then you are among the elite websurfers who actually clicked on my website rather than just hanging out all day on Facebook (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and I thank you.

Please feel free to comment on any of my web content. Here at P.K.S.A.X. we also welcome guest editorials, so if you have a pithy and pungent thought to share on music and culture, or just life in general, please share it and we will do our best to pass along your pearls of wisdom.

July has been a busy music month. Besides cool (and hot!) gigs with Larry Lange and The Lonely Knights, The Jitterbug Vipers, Manteca Beat, My Exotic Other, Sangeet Millennium, Ragavatar, and monthly jazz jams, I am squeezing in a trip to New England to visit family and play with old friends. Not to rub it in, but feeling cool non-conditioned air wafting through open windows the first night here was a joy. Of course I’m already homesick for that 104 degree Austin heat. Sort of.

The schedule picks up the last two weeks of the month:
July 19 – New Music Night at Kickbutt Coffee will feature touring rock act Amber Reigns. 8-10pm.
July 20 – PK plays with The Jitterbug Vipers at Lamberts. 7-9pm.
July 21 – PK plays with Ivory Ghost at Central Market. 6:30-9pm.
July 22 – Manteca Beat plays at Tom’s Tabooley. 7-10pm.
July 24 – Manteca Beat plays at Antone’s for the Well Aware Benefit. 7-8pm.
July 26 – PK and Friends play the Elephant Room. 9:30pm-1:30am.
July 27 – PK hosts the monthly Last Wednesday Jazz Jam at Caffe Medici. 7:30-10pm.
July 28 – PK plays with The Jitterbug Vipers at Momo’s. 5:30-7:30pm.
July 29 – Manteca Beat plays a special Ham Jam house concert. 7-10pm.
July 30 – Manteca Beat plays Romeo’s. 10pm-midnight.
July 31 – Manteca Beat plays the Kevapalooza benfit. 4-5pm. AND PK plays with
Ragavatar in San Antonio. 7:30-10pm.

News From The Alternate Universe #1

News From The Alternate Universe.

(Inspired by The New Yorker, 6/8/11)

Sideways Bridge To Somewhere

Representative Anthony Weiner, the subject of controversy over his “underpants” pictures, held a press conference today in which he said the situation had become untenable and he would be forced to make “some tough choices.”   He asked supporters to be patient and promised to announce a decision shortly.


Top Democrats have called for him to resign, saying his online affairs, suggestive Twitter posts, and self-published semi-nude photographs were a distraction from the federal government’s important work of strengthening corporate welfare and getting politicians re-elected.


In response, Weiner’s press secretary issued the following statement: “Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to focus on his art.  In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get his portfolio of photography and tweetpoetry evaluated by art experts.”


One of the art experts Weiner has worked with in the past said, on condition of anonymity, “The Representative obviously has an artistic vision, but I’m not convinced that he’s ready to move from erotic art hobbyist to a full-time commitment.”  Other artists have been more blunt, saying that Weiner’s celebrity status as a career politician is the only reason people are interested his art.


Privately Weiner has told friends and colleagues that he feels he has an important cultural contribution to make.  “It wouldn’t surprise me if Tony took some time off from politicking to do more erotic photography,” said John Kenney, Weiner’s barista and gym buddy.  “He has a certain gift, and he’s not getting any younger.  His kind of art has a pretty short shelf-life, quite frankly.”


While Weiner’s artwork has been attacked by Republicans in general, some individual Republicans have seen the controversy as an opportunity for presenting their own artistic visions.  Newt Gingrich announced he would be holding a one-man show of photographs at an art gallery or coffeehouse to be determined.  “I have some very classy nude shots of Callista from our last vacation that will really impress people,” Gingrich proclaimed.  “They’ll leave Weiner’s junk in the dust.”


Not to be outdone, Sarah Palin took time out from her ongoing non-campaign tour to announce that she had “some pretty hot Americana photography” which she will be displaying soon, along with selections from her adult commemorative plate collection.