The Merch Grrls (photo by Samantha Levin)
So what is a girl with a guitar and a few songs to do? Why, she should start another band, of course (and by “start a band,” I mean “find a bass player”)!
Fortunately, I just happened to know a bass player who was looking to start a band. Char and I were already spending much time working together as merch girls for other bands, participating in local music video filmings, and boozing in bars in and around the East Village that forming a band seemed like a natural progression. More so, we had the same vision.
So in what little spare time having three jobs apiece afforded, we began to practice. We would rehearse in Tompkins Square Park, in bar basements, in my livingroom, or anywhere. For fun, we started covering “Honest” by the Long Winters and Mike Jordan’s “One More Whiskey and Water (link covered by Michael McDermott),” because we figured we could relate to the lyrics and they were somewhat easy to play…at least they were somewhat easy the way we played them.
The band name, the Merch Grrls, came about pretty easily as well since that was what we were usually. We sold merch for the Antagonist Art Movement’s art slams every Thursday night and other occasional openings. We also sold merch for bands like the Duke Spirit and Ayabie. Other people either loved the name or loathed it, but we thought it was suitable so we kept it.
Artist James Rubio had a housewarming party in Jersey City, and Schocholautte was playing. He and comedian Julian Stockdale invited the Merch Grrls to open, and Char and I thought it would be amusing. We had a handful of practices and learned a cover of Cinderella’s “Shelter Me” to add to our four song set. There was just one thing I did not count on…stage fright.
Once all eyes were on me, all I could think about was how every single part of my body was jittery. I was proud of my song and the way we performed the covers, but no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I was surrounded by friends and that everything was okay, I could not relax. In retrospect, I think I was self conscious. I was worried too much about what the audience thought, even though they were mostly friends and close acquaintances. Perhaps it would have been better had I performed first in a room of complete strangers.
I did everything one is not supposed to do. I acknowledged my mistakes, and I started songs over. I even apologized to the crowd. I do not think I stopped sweating until about 20 minutes and two Red Stripes after we had finished.