This post is part 2 of Strange Things are Happening
Inside venues have their share of distractions too. Coffee shops with espresso machines whipping up frothy drinks when you are in the middle of a song or a drumming circle performing outside the door of the furniture store I played at for First Thursday in downtown Boise (That store is gone now.)
Of course, the strangest happenings aren’t usually caused by the venue itself but the people who come in. There are those who want to help musically whether they are gifted or not. Drumming on the table is a good thing as long as the person can keep time, lol. Or if MY timing is off, what a cluster. And how about the guy who walks in and asks to play along with you and has the instrument waiting in the car? That would be fine if he had practiced with me before hand. I guess he hadn’t thought it through that I’m hired to provide music background, aka entertainment as the heading ‘live music’ implies, so a jam session isn’t necessarily part of the deal. Maybe it’s just a need for enlightenment, or a matter of not picking up on social cues. If I knew without a doubt he could back me up with minimal pitchiness or wrong notes, then I could say, yes come sit in with me. Not that I play flawlessly by all means, but I do need to run through the songs with someone first.
On another note, I was completely flummoxed when I showed up to a venue one evening and one of the wait staff was acting frosty towards me. Usually the venue is happy to see me because I’m pretty friendly and, after all, they are the ones who invited me to come. But this time my cheery hello did nothing to quell the vibe I could feel as I proceeded to set up. “This is not good”, I mused, as I wracked my brain to figure out what I could I have done to cause bad feelings. Lest you wonder if I’m overly sensitive – no, in this case it was not the case; the hostility was palatable and certainly not conducive for merry music making. About a half an hour into my set, I finally decided to approach the server privately and ask him if anything was wrong. After all, I’d rather know what I did and try to fix it rather than suffer the entire night. Turns out the waiter and the cook thought I was someone else who had called the venue repeatedly that week with questions about the house sound system which to them felt like harassment. Once realizing I was not that person, they laughed out loud and the waiter and I even hugged in relief! He filled me in on all they had endured and we agreed that the person had called too many times for what’s appropriate (another case in not understanding acceptable social norms). After that, the whole night changed – hallelujah – and a nice time was had by all! Good thing, because family and friends had turned out to hear me and to try out their wonderful menu! What a bummer it would have been if there was something lingering in the air to make them uncomfortable and not want to return to the venue.
Like I mentioned in Strange Things Part 1 precious children of a young age often want to come up and either dance or sing in front of me during the song or want to come help play the keyboard. This happens wherever children are. I’m always grateful for parents who assess the situation and intervene. The dancing and singing I don’t mind as much just because they are so cute! But touching the keys is off limits which most parents know. On the other hand, there is the parent who plunks a really shy child down in front of the keyboard, and me, and tries to get them to sing or dance. Or gives a slightly older child money to put into my tip jar from afar and instructs the shy child to walk the plank to where I am. Sometimes a little drama ensues while I pretend not to notice 😮
Speaking of parents, you’ve gotta love the proud mother who sees a live musician as an opportunity for her child to perform. Last month one such mother approached me in between songs and asked “If I put a few dollars in your tip jar would you accompany my daughter on What A Wonderful World?” I told her I didn’t have that songs prepared on the piano but that did not detour her. She said “Oh she can sing lots of songs – she’s really good!” I said with friendly voice and face, “Wow! I bet she is! But you know what? I’ve been hired to provide live music for today so I better get back to it. If you are interested in talking to the gal who books the music here, I’d be glad to introduce you.” For some reason she didn’t take me up on that. Hmmm, I wonder why? But I do declare, some people have boundary issues!
Aside from all the weird stuff that occurs while playing music out and about, it’s really fun and I consider it a privilege to play for others. The alternative is to keep my gifts to myself and stay home. I guess these types of strange happenings add color to the experience and make me realize humanity is quirky and lovely at the same time. And that’s why I even feel to sing my songs out in public – aside from the compelling desire to get out of my living room and be heard – it’s because I love the hilariously quirky us and you have to admit, it is anything but boring!