I played a benefit for Paul Kulak’s Woodshed (www.kulakswoodshed.com) on Friday night. With me were Stephen Bishop (www.stephenbishop.com) , Laurence Juber (www.laurencejuber.com) , John McCuen , Freebo (www.freebomusic.com) and a host of others. The deal was that we were coming together as a community to raise money to help Paul fight still another frivolous lawsuit from his malignant neighbor. The shows usually start there at 8 pm and end around 10 pm, so I left the house at 7 thinking that that would be plenty of time to get their in time. Turns out the show started at 7 pm because there were so many people contributing their time and talent. I arrived late. Something I don’t like to do in general and hate to do when I’m part of something like a benefit or open mic or concert of any sort, actually.
I feel like when you are part of a thing like this, or even an open mic, as I mentioned in another column months ago, that you have a responsibility to give the other artists on the bill your respect. And one of the ways you display that respect is getting there on time and giving a listen to the other folks. Now if there is someone who just doesn’t reach you, step outside, go to the bathroom, but allow them their place in the sun and stay til the end so that everyone has an audience to play to.
Last Friday, there were so very many people coming in just before they played and then leaving right after they played that I was stunned. What you do when you do that is to demonstrate how little regard you have for anyone but yourself. One who behaves that way, wants everyone to notice them, watch them, listen to them and then they can not extend the simple courtesy to reciprocate.
I know that on occasion there are extenuating circumstances but for the most part, if you agree to be a part of something like this, then BE a part of it. Don’t come down for some obviously self serving purpose and pretend that you are there for any other reason than your own self interest.
I also know that it is difficult for me to be both a performer and an audient. It is easier for me to simply be in an audience than it is to sit there knowing that I’ll be performing soon. I always go through a ritual of warming up and focusing before I perform. Consequently, I missed the acts performing in the thirty minutes or so before I went on. That’s just an occupational hazard.
And yes, in our businesss, self interest is a huge motivator. We are all like Sisyphus, pushing that career boulder up the hill. And if we stop for a second, there’s no one else to keep it going and it rolls right back to the bottom. So I understand self interest, but think about it. Wouldn’t it serve you further to display courtesy and respect to your fellow artists? You never know who will emerge and who will disappear. It takes a lot more than talent to break through. It takes drive and focus, but I promise you that if you temper that with some respect and courtesy for your fellow artists that you will only come out looking better than ever, and that can’t hurt.
There is also the fact that when you give anyone some of your time and you listen to what they are doing, you get something back. Maybe the lesson to not do what they did, maybe an idea for a song, an arrangement, a singing technique, a stage presence, but you always get something if you pay attention to them. There is so much to learn from everyone in this business, don’t sell yourself short by not giving other artists a chance to teach you something. As musicians and performers, we never stop learning.
There was an artist there last Friday that I’ve never really enjoyed and I managed to absent myself from the room during his set, but in retrospect, that was a mistake and I shortchanged me. He’s a wonderfully engaging performer and who can’t benefit by watching that? I let my ego get in the way of my craft. Watch out for that one. It only hurts you.