Welcome, Our Three New Members!

Auditioning is weird.

You walk into this room full of people you’ve never met who are about to nod silently at you, squint in your general direction, and ask you all kinds of questions, generally doing all of the things that literally judging you entails.

On the flip side of that, holding auditions is weird in a completely different way.

You welcome all of these random people who are somehow interested in you to come to your ritualistic space; you have to think of all these questions to ask them, narrow down your own idea of what you want into very specific terms and parameters, be on performance yourself to convince these people you are legitimate and worth being a part of and, if you are nice, host the audition incredibly amicably and do your very best to make these people comfortable and allow them the space to be at their best.

It’s like weird, creative speed-dating.

“What are you interested in? What do you do? What part do you sing? If you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?” Together, you dive into this comfortably uncomfortable window of time spent assessing one another and determining whether you’d like to spend the rest of your Sundays together.

But the overall awkward realm of auditioning delivers so much good. And without further adieu, a fat, whomping - I mean truly obese - welcome is in order for our three new members: Scott, Matthew, and Austin.

B-side's newest members

Never have so many people loved each other so quickly. Not only is the addition of these three new souls a huge boost to the richness of our sound as a vocal group, they are full of laughter, light, and so much goodness and B-Side has turned up its Hot & Wholesome™ - ness to even higher levels (Literally everyone in this group is attractive. Literally everyone is incredibly nice and lovely. I don’t know how it happened that way. It’s just the truth. No, I am not biased).

We have only had two practices with these new members but they have already added so much to our group. I cannot wait to see how these powerful voices stretch and improve our sound, how their personalities and ideas take us to new places as a group. Welcome to the B-Side family, you beautiful humans! We are so excited to spend the rest of our Sundays with you!

Matthew, Scott, & Austin

Stage Fright Ain't No Thang

A thin sheen of sweat prickles across my palms, the wells of my collar bones, the plains of my temples. My skin feels clammy, my heart flutters its beat, unable to keep time. I breath - in, out - trying to calm myself, hoping an intentionally steady eb and flow of air through my lungs will signal to my brain that there is a healthy supply of oxygen in this room, my bloodstream and organs are functioning smoothly, my life is not in jeopardy of any kind and I can thus stop freaking the fuck out.

This is what happens to me ninety percent of the time I go up on a stage to perform something. The less people there are on stage, the more my panic amplifies. Put me in front of a crowd on my own and my emotions are a freakin’ cirque du soleil performance of anxiety, hope, happiness, sheer terror, paralyzing doubt, and utter resilience. My hands shake, my armpits are straight up the sweaty version of niagara falls, and overall, I must just be the most horrifically pitiable thing to behold - this quaking, shaking, damp bundle of a person holding a piece of wood with strings and warbling into the end of a stick (a.k.a “microphone”).

Except obviously it’s never quite that bad (I’m pretty sure people would leave if it was) and I obviously wouldn’t keep subjecting myself to this kind of personal disquiet if it wasn’t somehow worth it. This very particular strain of social anxiety is shared by people who perform for a living - Adele has historically had such bad nerves in front of a crowd that she has, on separate occasions, projectile-vomited and escaped out the fire exit.1 Adele! Freaking Adele!

All confidence, no matter how incredibly spectacular or adored of a talent you are, can apparently just evaporate when it comes to be confronted with a stage. And, of course, this makes sense because you are literally being put on a pedestal for everyone to look at. A whole room, bar, auditorium full of people have elected to come here and watch you do something - their eyes, ears, and attention are yours, their sense of pleasure and entertainment depends on you. And of course, half the time they’re not really listening to you anyway - they’re having a conversation or thinking about something else or watching your concert through their phone as they record it - but the pressure and the social anxiety are, nevertheless, immense. It is truly awful at times. You are one small human trying to live up to this social construct of what music and entertainment should be when, really, the reason any performance is great or fun is because something genuine or beautiful is being shared; because you are engaging in something fundamentally human, rooted in every single culture that has ever existed: you are simply making something. That is what makes all of the nerves worth it. That joy of creating, of sharing what you have inside of you, of participating in something graceful with complete strangers.

That is why I sing. That is why the stage fright and the doubt are worth it. Because after some initially shakey chords, some first-song jitters, some light marathon sweating, my heart glows with happiness that I am sharing something I love with people. And of course, the more you get up on that stage, the easier it becomes to stop caring about what your little shoulder demons are whispering in your ear, to stop caring about whether you are good, and the easier it becomes to get up there because you have something to say. And it might not be perfect. And that is so sublimely alright.

Singing with B-Side has taught me so much about why I love to sing, about how easy it can be to walk up onto a stage. Because the sum of a performance with these dear, dear people, is that we are a small pod of humans creating something together and having fun doing it. That is all performance ever has to be. I mean, yes, it is also great if you sound good too, but the presence of stage and a crowd doesn’t have to mean anything more than the fact that people want to partake in the experience of artistic creation alongside you. I will probably always be a little nervous before a performance, but because I sing with B-Side, I am so much better at being able to set those nerves aside and carry on in spite of them. Because I love sharing what we do with people. I love what we do!

1 https://www.bigspeak.com/managing-stage-fright

What Even Is A Cappella?

To many ears, the words “a cappella group” bring to mind well-lit images of Pitch Perfect movies, Glee, and the shockingly talented Pentatonix. This world of full sound, breath-taking voices, and perfect timing is something so many groups strive for, B-Side Book Club included. But for us, a cappella will always be a little bit different.

People have been singing for as long as they’ve had voices. It is a natural inclination to stretch your voice in melody and harmony, to throw it into the air and listen to all the ways it might bounce around in the wind. A Cappella’s roots lie in Gregorian chant (the OG Pitch Perfect) - in polyphony, madrigals, choral work developed by the church (in fact, a cappella literally means “in the manner of the chapel”). This form of music has evolved along with time, dabbling in styles like barbershop or devoting itself to instrument emulation (wherein the mighty mouth trumpet was born). In fact the polyphony of today relies heavily on mimicking instruments to recreate songs which is why syllable creativity has truly expanded in this golden age of beatboxing and bass lines. It’s amazing what the human voice can do, and a cappella is all about showcasing that agility, power, and precision in a way that astonishes its audience.

And while part of that power and awe is what draws B-Side Book Club into the world of a cappella, our approach to a cappella relies much more heavily on a vocal music perspective, taking this genre back to its roots. We are all at practice every Sunday evening not just to strengthen our vocal chords and improve our musicality, but because we love the feeling of singing music together. Throughout its entire life, a cappella music has been a music of community. It inherently needs a group of people in order to exist! There is, for a lack of better terminology, an extremely special thing that happens when individuals put their voices together and breaks or draws silence from a room. There is a magic that spreads through your very bones when you hear your voice melting into someone else’s, when you share words and support harmonies, breath together and sing as loudly and softly as you can. Love for this small magic is what resides at the heart of B-Side Book Club. It is the sacred little center of this community, and it is something we feel so privileged to share with others - something we know has been there long before us and will be there long after us.

For all the flash and chart-based turnover of pop-aligned a cappella, there is definite sense of legacy built into the genre. Many people begin to sing a cappella in college where they join for a couple of years before moving on as the group stays tied to school grounds. Other people participate in church choirs where the same happenstance occurs: you are part of this thing for a little while, and then you leave and it carries on without you. There is a sense of ebb and flow that encourages you to stay for only as long as this community and this art is serving you. It is not a part of you so much as you are a part of it for a while, and while I’m getting a little dreadfully romantic about it, it is worth making this note because music should never be a thing of exclusivity. It lives inside of everyone. Whether it is well developed or not, musical expression is truly tied into the condition of being human and at least for us, the truth of that fact is most evident when we are standing in a circle singing directly into each others’ beautiful faces.

At the end of the day, we are simply a gaggle of human beings who have found purpose and groove in putting our voices together. That is what a cappella means to us. And the fact that people are happy to share in and support that with us is simply sublime.

A New Year, A New Blog

A fresh year is upon us and B-Siders gather once more to join in merriment and song. Smiles stretch, vocal chords wiggle, and laughter tumbles forward in our first reunion of 2019. We are so excited to be able to continue this group as hard work gives way to new adventures, AND we are excited to announce the newly-hatched presence of this blog wherein you can expect to learn more about who we are, what we do, what we think, and what it means to be part of a community devoted to sound.

Founded by a shared love of singing and vocal music, B-Side Book Club is a group dedicated to learning, improving, and sharing in harmony. For all of the hard work and success we’ve won for ourselves (our simple hobby has lead us to regional sweepstakes, international competitions, and local news channels - quite frankly, we’re all a little shocked by it), every B-Side member has stayed on with the Club because of the amazing community stitched into every element of this group. Though B-Side has waxed and waned into new combinations of souls and sounds, grown official documentation and 301C Non-Profit status, and established a small but noble name for itself, it started as a group of friends sitting around a kitchen table. And through all of this growing and changing, B-Side Book Club has never lost sight of that fact. This group exists to provide an open space for friends to have fun singing and invite strangers to do the same. In everything we do, we strive to make sure we never lose sight of that.

So welcome to B-Side! Welcome to this blog. We already love you and want to sing with you. And we hope you enjoy learning more about us.