I believe we all experience a sense of panic when we’re on stage.Often just the perception of being exposed to a hundred pair of eyes waiting for us to fail or realizing that we need to fix something  – like finding our way out of a tune, then wondering if we’re in tune, as our minds are shopping for groceries while we watch a battery that runs a piece of our stage equipment slowly blink as it dies, then worrying if there is a spare, and finally sensing there is no back up in sight. These are all potential panic-causing moments that turn our bodies into a variety of freezes from dry mouth to total loss of words, hand tremors and breathing spasms, or – my favorite – passing out.


While in high school the mere mention at the beginning of the semester of two oral speaking requirements rendered me with such a pale-white face that any modern day vampire would have been jealous.  I would hear the assignment, sense impending doom, and then promptly pass out.


By the time I entered college, I knew something had to be done about my uncontrollable panic because I wanted to perform on stage at the local coffeehouse. I signed up for a course in Speech and one in Music that would require some type of performance.  I had to face my fears and felt that there would never be a good time to do this, so I went for it.  And I survived.


Having since performed on stage, radio, and television thousands of times since those days of sweating it out in front of my classmates in the Student Union coffeehouse, I must admit one thing. The sense of panic doesn’t go away.  It never goes away and at best, because of a combination of experience, familiarity with  material and equipment, and an amoeba-size amount of  more confidence,  I’ve learned to cope with it, corral it and on a good night – channel it.


Somehow this brings me to the D’Addario/ Planet Waves circuit breaker cable which requires the massive operation while on stage of turning a button on or off.  That’s right – On or Off.  There is no third option.  It’s that simple and tranquil.


I have to admit I was surprised when I saw some seasoned performers attempt to use the circuit breaker cable that they had recently won during one of my seminars. They forget not only if they had it on or off, but which was on, in or out regarding THE BUTTON.


For a moment, allow me to solve Rubic’s mystery of the Circuit Breaker Cable.  In is ON, out is OFF.  My point in bringing this up is not only my reaction to the confusion, which was mild amusement, but also the reaction of the players, which was pure panic.   They actually said that they didn’t want to use the cable because it confused them (er, one button), and selected another cable to use!


After I put myself back in their place, I realized that the intensity and level of panic folks experience on stage is genuinely shared by many – amateurs and professionals alike.   Having to deal with a new piece of equipment and not knowing the ins and outs of its operation with one button was enough to short circuit their entire psyche.


I recognized, too, that this is somewhat of a litmus test for performers.  If a person is that easily flabbergasted by something so small as a button, then they might want to examine their on-stage mindset in times of adversity.


In regards to the cable itself, it’s hands down one of the most preferred items to bring on tour for my shows.  The cable itself provides an ultra-clean signal and the ability to disconnect the signal (OFF or “OUT”) allows me to avoid popping the sound system or wondering if the soundman is currently alert when I am changing instruments.


Also, I have the advantage of tuning without the audience members having to endure twing twang twong by simply muting the button.


Once again – IN is ON, OUT is OFF.  The good thing is that you only have to really remember one of them.  I use – IN is ON with the argument that all musicians prefer to be ON.


Richard Gilewitz