One Man's Quest to Face His Fear Becomes Documentary and (Almost) Lands Him On Stage With U2

05/13/2016 03:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


Fear. Is there any more daunting, more soul-draining, more life-destroying emotion than fear?

Millions of volumes of psychology books have been written on the human race's fascination with, and, most of the time, begrudging submission to, fear.

Fear keeps us from loving, from being happy, from truly experiencing life, and, of course, helps create mankind's most unifying nightmare (something the liquor companies know all too well) dancing while everyone's looking.

Why does fear haunt us so much? Because it prevents us, as indivduals, from being truly free. And, ultimately, it seems the desire to be free is the common quest that unites us all, as a species. A quest each of us end up pursuing in our own ways.

Vancouver-based, Patrick Stark's a successful, well-rounded creative director at a computer animation company with a wife and kids. By all accounts, he's had a normal childhood; loving parents, supportive siblings, etc. But there's one thing that's always haunted him his entire life. His fear of singing.

Not singing in the shower, or in his car. He's perfectly fine with that. It's when he's asked to sing in front of a group of people that his knees go weak and his stomach wants to send back the contents it may have accumulated that day. Thank God he's not a singer by trade, or he'd be in a bit of trouble.

However, unlike many sufferers of performance anxiety, Patrick is not one to let his fear get the best of him, so, about eight years ago, after a lifetime of what he believed to be an irrational phobia to singing, he began documenting his journey to overcome his fear by forcing himself to get up and sing, whenever, wherever he could.

But, for Patrick Stark, an open mic night in front of 20 people just wasn't quite a big enough leap. As scary as performing in even the tiniest of bars would be, and trust me, just talking about performing live sends him into a panic attack, he wanted to really put his fear to the test and come out with a bang. So, back in '09, Patrick decided to do it where anyone with a fear of singing would think of taking their first step: outside Vancouver's BC Place stadium. Uh, huh. And, why stop there? While you're at it, why keep it to just you and your guitar? Why not hire a band comprised of Vancouver's best session musicians and perform selections from your favorite band who just happened to be playing there that night? U2.

Patrick's quest to sing with U2 is the underlying theme in the film. And, believe it or not, it almost happened.

In 2011, two years after his debut, Patrick finally summoned up the courage to try again (In between, he had done another gig or two on the street, but his fear was so intense, it took him, and still takes, literally close to a year between performances to get his nerve up.). Of course, he had to outdo his first attempt, so he traveled to Seattle's Westlake Center, where U2 was again on tour, hired the Total Experience Gospel Choir and performed U2 songs on a stage off the back of a semi tractor trailer. But again, no love from the band.

Then fate intervenes. Fast forward to May, 2015, where, months before, he manages to secure a performance with Canadian band, Trooper, in front of over 7,000 fans, and, if that wasn't enough, who does Patrick wind up having dinner next to on this particular night? You guessed it.

A nervous but determined Patrick approached Bono and the boys and told them of the documentary he was filming, the premise behind it, and his dream of singing with them. Two seconds after the pitch, Bono says, "What are you doing Friday?" He was so intrigued by this guy's guts and determination, he actually invited a shell-shocked Patrick to sing with the band at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver - in front of about 20,000 people.

Backstage, the fear was overwhelming, but Patrick was determined to beat it and live out his dream. However, sadly, as he stood in the wings practicing his scales and doing his best to keep from fainting, fate intervened again. This time, dealing a cruel blow.

Just prior to the band taking the stage, Patrick got word that they would be doing a tribute to their good friend, blues legend B.B. King, who died the night before. Unfortunately for Patrick, his almost unthinkable, impromptu appearance was scrapped. That was just about a year ago to the day.

I asked Patrick if he thinks he'll ever get another shot to sing with his idols, to which, he replied, "I would love to, but that's not what this film's about."

"If you manage to summon the courage to climb Mt. Everest, how hard will it be to do anything beyond that? This is my Mt. Everest," he says.

I also asked if he had any idea where his paralyzing fear of performing came from, and he instantly replied "My siblings." Patrick was the third child out of four and, although he says his family was incredibly supportive, his brothers and sisters could be extremely critical of each other growing up. #shocker

Having enough objectivity to realize the thing holding you back from truly living life is one thing. Documenting it is another. But the subject of overcoming fear isn't just for regular folks. In fact, the argument can be made that the bigger the performer, the bigger the fear. Whether it's fear of not staying on top, fear of those around you, or even, paradoxically, fear of crowds.

Fear as the enemy, and, ironically, his unabashed lack of it when it comes to approaching established artists to appear in his film, is why Patrick has managed to snag interviews and conversations with a veritable who's who in the entertainment world; i.e., mega-producers Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite, New Order's Peter Hook, the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, author of Necromancer William Gibson, even The Rolling Stones' longtime manager, Andrew Oldham, all make cameos in the upcoming documentary.

Patrick and his ever-growing production team plan on taking the soon-to-be-completed film to SXSW, Sundance, Tribeca, and other festivals in 2017.

Not bad for a guy who, a few years ago, couldn't be forced up on a stage if his life depended on it. Oh, and he's also deathly afraid of flying. #Sequel?