I’ve written about the gypsy jazz collective, The Americano Social Club in posts past, but I felt that the band’s upcoming Monthly Ruckus in the heart of the Haight/Ashbury district of San Francisco heralded a literary revisiting.
My participation in the Americano Social Club was and continues to be a transformative process. I first joined the group as a sit-in at the Revolution Café, only lending my voice when invited to do so. I generally sang in a sweatshirt and jeans as I didn’t want to show up looking like I was expecting any special treatment. You see, at that particular time in my career, I had no expectations for myself. I was green and insecure and my potential hadn’t yet been sustainably tapped. They were doing me a favor as far as I was concerned and no number of “Wow, you killed its” or “that voice came out of YOUs?” would get any other ideas across to me. Adding to the grey was my relatively recent re-entry to the Bay Area after giving it a go on Broadway (no joke). The competition out east was fierce and I ultimately decided it wasn’t a lifestyle for which I was willing to sacrifice….anything. I came back to San Francisco telling myself that I wasn’t cut out for it, that I was weak, only marginally talented and doomed for a life of perpetual type-casting. But every time Michael invited me to sing a number or two I would gleam and, for the rest of the night, considered myself the luckiest girl in the city. I still do.
The invitations to sing kept coming and eventually the idea for the Americano Social Club Family Ruckus afforded me a standing invitation to be an active member of a real-life variety show. The authentic performing experience I was seeking in New York was being offered to me right in my own home town. So, I began to show up. I mean REALLY show up. I bought sassy dresses, teetered around in heels, and put makeup on my face. This group of extraordinarily talented musicians and dancers were including me in their act. So. I. Brought. It. Every night, my goal was to supersede my previous performance. I would go deeper, get darker, listen harder, be MORE present. My questions were never, “How can I get this band to better support me?” They were always, and continue to be “How much more can I bring to this group of people?” “What more can I do?” “Where can I add more support?” Granted, I’m not perfect and have definitely taken a few wrong turns, forgotten a few lyrics, and dropped a few entrances, but that’s part of the human growth process. If there is anything more the band has given me, it’s providing real time, tangible examples of what it looks like to have compassion for oneself. I’ve seen and been that member of the group that shows up stressed from a long day at work, upset about a personal grievance, sickly or just in a really foul mood. But I’ve watched each of them roll with it with grace and deliver because that’s what you do. There are no complaints, just matters of fact. So, I would follow suit. I would show up my full and honest self, AND I would bring it.
I was a fully functioning adult when I came back from New York. But I was still craving mentorship, guidance and a good example of what it means to be a performance professional with community as a core value.The Americanos truly are part of my family and I look forward to many more Ruckuses and opportunities to surpass myself.
Speaking of which, there’s one this weekend! Won’t you please come witness our passion at play? I promise this will be a night like no other before it. At least I know I will be planning on it.