A while back, I wrote a two-part series on bluegrass dream analysis. Since that time, for whatever reason, I’ve had almost no bluegrass-related dreams. Perhaps I had gotten them out of my system. In the last year, most of my dreams have been in the absurd and/or nonsensical category, like the one I had last week involving a giant turnip speaking Spanish to the Queen of England, who on closer inspection was actually Nick Nolte. Aside from a too-brief appearance by figure skater Katarina Witt, this was a worthless dream, and was pretty typical of my current dream life.
A few nights ago, though, the bluegrass dream made an overdue reappearance in my subconscious. Unfortunately, it was a nightmare, but at least it made a kind of sense. It was a classic anxiety dream: I had just booked an expensive, non-refundable international flight (which I had also just done in real life) but then realized that my band and I had a 2-day festival booking I had forgotten about, scheduled for when I was now going to be out of the country. I had also apparently agreed to a price way below the norm. In the dream, my agent reminded me that I had okayed it because we were already in the area. I woke up with a start, thinking it was real, and I was about to get up in the middle of the night and check through my contracts, when I figured out it was just some professional stress having its way with my brain.
Everybody has their own brand of the anxiety dream related to their vocation. There’s the classic student dream that plagues some people decades after they’ve left school. That’s the one where you find out you’re supposed to take an exam you didn’t know anything about and didn’t study for (in extreme versions you’re naked in the exam room, singing I Did It My Way with people shushing you).
There’s definitely a DJ’s anxiety dream. For most it involves dead air you can’t seem to do anything about. In my case, a song is ending, I don’t have anything else cued up, and I can’t seem to get the board to work right (the phone is also ringing, of course). In cases of acute anxiety, I also spill coffee all over the equipment while I’m fumbling around. I’ve only done this once in real life.
Within the bluegrass music community, there are classic anxiety dreams that vary depending on your role within the business. Here are a few:
The side musician:
You’re about to take the stage and can’t find your instrument anywhere.
In another version, the band leader looks in your direction on stage, expecting you to kick off the next song and you have no idea what key it’s in or how it goes (sometimes you’re also naked on stage).
The band leader:
You’re about to meet the band to go play an important show, only to find that none of your musicians are there. Instead, you’re greeted by a team of circus performers who tell you they’ve been hired to replace them.
A variation: you look over at your mandolin player to kick off a song, and he just stands there frozen, as if he doesn’t know the song. He also appears to be naked. You know you’ll take the blame for it all.
The event producer:
You’ve sold out a theatre for a a major bluegrass show but the headliners fail to show. You’re forced to go out on stage yourself and sing a capella for an hour instead. The audience members throw their shoes at you.
Variation: Your headline band does show, but they turn out to be spoiled, self-obsessed prima donnas. Oh wait, that’s real and you’re actually awake. Sorry!
You’re excited that you’ve booked a very full summer schedule for one of your acts, when you suddenly discover that in fact they’re on someone else’s roster, not yours, and they’ll be paying all their commission to someone you don’t even know.
The sound engineer:
Most sound anxiety dreams involve a persistent ring of feedback that you can’t seem to locate or eliminate. The band is complaining openly from the stage and everyone in the audience is turning around and staring at you. The ring turns out to just be a golf cart backing up. You may or may not be naked.