Strange Things are Happening…

Art & Roses June 2014
Playing music at Julia Davis Park

When I play my music in public, strange and funny things happen to me that either put me “on tilt” or to throw me for a loop. Since there are so many I’ll divide this blog between outdoor and indoor happenings, so let this be Part 1.

Funny things can occur when playing music outside in a park or farmers market. Nice people walk over to me to start a conversation, which would be great if I wasn’t in the middle of a song! So I usually just smile and nod – and keep the song going – hoping they will realize – “oh ya, she can’t talk yet”. Last week when playing at Julia Davis Park by the Rose Garden, the nicest gentleman came up to give me a large bag of popcorn while trying to tell me something, but I was singing. I did the smile and nod thing so he kindly set the popcorn down in my CD tote. So generous and sweet of him to give so openly and freely! Later I absent-mindedly ate a little of it between songs remembering too late that dry stuff gets stuck in a dry throat. Thankfully I had some water bottles on hand! When the Stuart Family came by on their bikes, I shared the popcorn with the 3 teenagers! Yay, a chance to pay it forward – a gift that keeps on giving!

When I first started playing out I’d get cotton mouth and my lips would invariably stick to my teeth before the song was over. After time I became more comfortable and now so it’s not so bad. However, I’ve learned to hydrate more than usual the day of the gig and try to avoid too much coffee. Also vitamin B12 helps AND I am now never without my trusty chapstick!

The same park day of Nice Popcorn Man, while singing my song Dark Night of the Soul, I kept hearing little bursts of whistling behind me – little staccato notes. At the songs end, I turned around to a beautiful little sprite that looked like what Joni Mitchell must have looked like when she was a girl. I told her “Wow, you are a really good whistler; I wondered who was doing that! If you had been off key I would have had to ask you to stop but you were actually pretty spot on!” She smiled sprite-ly and whistled again for me but her parents may have talked with her because after that she only danced through my songs – even the slow ones :) I should have taken her picture!

Speaking of children, I’ve had some burst into my space to help me play the keyboard which doesn’t work out too well. Scanning the crowd for the parent, I explain to the child that it’s MY turn to play right now. For the most part, parents are great about retrieving the child once they see what’s happening!

Kids are great though. Depending on their personality, they will either stare at me with big round eyes without blinking, or will clap and sachet through a song. It’s really cute to watch, but can be a challenge to stay on beat when the clapping is off. This is when I could use a percussionist by my side, lol.

Another incident at the gig by the Julia Davis Rose Garden was when tiny white worms were falling from the canopy of trees above me into my space, which was just a little creepy. The duo who played before me warned me about this upon my arrival. I asked if the worms bite and they said “no biting, but they are annoying.” Thankfully I had worn a hat that day, but I did worry about the creatures damaging my keyboard which led me to think seriously once again about learning to play guitar. Guitars aren’t as heavy as pianos either. Anyway, as I set up, I watched the little critters plop onto my keyboard and amps. They were so small that no one but me noticed, but a distraction nevertheless; when one would land between the piano keys, I felt compelled to try to fish it out without making mistakes in the song. Finally I just ignored it and hoped for the best. When loading my gear back into the car, I noticed the ones on my amp had died and dried up so I was thankful our home wouldn’t be inundated with unwanted house guests. Since then I haven’t noticed any piano keys sticking or anything so no lasting effect I guess.

Flies, during the season of the little black fly, can be an annoying distraction while trying to keep a song going. I was playing for 3 hours at a farmers market last year and the flies were landing on my arms and legs – yes I did shower that morning – even landing on my mic windscreen (the cover for the mic that helps with noise etc). I was a little worried I’d inhale one accidentally, but fortunately I didn’t. Bees – yellow jackets – also can be a nuisance. I’m glad I finally outgrew the crazed fear I had of them when I was a child. Still, if I ever randomly scream into the microphone just know I’m not venturing into hardcore punk, but something terrible has happened.

That’s all that’s coming to mind today, but stay tuned for Strange Things Happening Part 2 – more wacky details of my music life – indoor happenings. Next time you enjoy a musical offering whether it be inside or outside, just think, more can be going on than what you see and hear!

By the way, if anyone else has a peculiar incident to share whilst playing live music, please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you so I can be encouraged that I am not the only one who goes through this stuff!

5 thoughts on “Strange Things are Happening…

  1. Hey Nancy, I was able to to get here within Facebook, but to leave a reply it requires I leave my name and email address. Just wanted you to know that it did come up when I clicked on the link. Have not read it yet, will do so after this.

  2. That’s great Nancy, the people talking during the song I have seen happen to other musicians a lot. Still boggles my mind, but it happens a lot. Boy, I don’t know if I want to play outdoors. I’m not as nice as you, if kids are in my space and equipment and parents are not watching them that could send me over the edge. I have to save and save to buy equipment and if it gets broken I can’t just re-purchase so I am a bit tyrannical when it comes to my equipment. Good thing you have a sweet spirit, sounds like it comes in handy. I am impressed with you sticking it out when it was raining worms. Yuck. You are a true professional to be able to handle all those various distractions. Great blog, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. Thanks for coming over from Facebook Brady! So glad to hear from you! I hear you about protecting the equipment – I’ve learned to not make eye contact with certain types so they don’t barge into my space! Guess we are all on a learning curve and we learn as we go! Keep calm and carry on as the saying goes!

  4. Interesting information…
    I was at an out door concert one of many Times seated on the grass
    And a toddler came and sat in my lap at the break we got up and danced
    I shared food and water with this little man no parents in view to me
    After the concert Mom found us playing in front of the stage…
    The boy was there as a wish he was being treated for leukemia
    The father was a camera man I got to meat the band’s steve emiller, Stevie nicks
    Pretenders and Jefferson starship…
    A winning day for both of us thanks to make a wish the children’s shriners hospital and of course the generous bands.

  5. Wow Katie – that is an awesome story – one I’m sure you will never forget! I bet the parents were watching from a distance and saw he was in good hands :-) I hope the little man made it. Do you know the outcome?

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