Now let’s backtrack to last Friday's show. I was going to talk about them on Monday, but there was no Monday for me, and Tuesday we talked about a question I had gotten regarding putting on open mic’s, as some of you may know. For the others, it’s the post before this one. It is accompanied by a picture of a Siamese cat playing computer solitaire. The photo has absolutely nothing to do with the post. I love these non sequitur photos. It just makes you think. It’s sort of like the I Ching. You read this mysterious hexagram and it’s translation and try to figure out how it could possibly apply to the question you asked. It is in that searching that you find the answer, grasshopper.
Friday night’s show was, for me, simply perfect. I had arrived, as I always do, several hours before the gig at a charming place called the Trading Company, 488 Prune Alley,Eastsound, Washington, 360 376 7322. If you are on Orcas Island, you must make this one of your stops; a remarkable store and space. It has been fun over the past few years to find myself playing in more and more unusual places. And the proprietor, Joann Frances, cheerfully volunteered her space when the Ecotopia Concert space fell through due to bureaucratic red tape (the bane of the sane). Unless they came and didn’t feel compelled to introduce themselves I must admit that I was completely surprised that the proprietors of Ecotopia didn’t come to the concert, particularly in view of the fact that they bailed on their commitment two weeks before the performance. You would think that at this late stage of the game, I couldn’t be surprised by people, but it just keeps on happening…everything I’ve ever learned in life…I’ve had to learn again, as I am wont to say.
The space had been transformed into a concert venue. Sharon Abreu and Mike Hurewicz supplied the sound system, which we set up without a hitch and which we kept at just the right volume so that no one missed a note and no one was uncomfortable. I had a monitor at my feet and I had the speakers at the other end of the room pointed at me and then set the volume to balance between what I was acoustically putting into the room and what the speakers were providing from the other end of the room. Everyone remarked about how wonderful the sound was. (It seated only about fifty people, so the remainder of the standing room only crowd were at the windows and on the porch, in the kitchen and in the anteroom). Orcas Islands own Parking Angels warmed the crowd up with twenty minutes of familiar songs and fine harmonies, then it was my turn.
This was essentially a house concert and one of the things you must remember about a house concert is that people want the immediacy and intimacy of an unamplified performance. However, the number of people that usually attend my house concerts preclude that sort of unamplified arrangement, so I strive to strike a balance that allows me to do all that I do (looping, phase shifting, digital delays, tremelo’s) at a concert and the completely unamplified concert that I would do for say, twenty or thirty people. But I do use the effects much less in a house concert situation than in a club. But be that as it may, an intimate show for the discerning few can be just as rewarding as playing for thousands.
I remember doing a show with Bonnie Raitt at the Paramount in Seattle and the very next night being at a coffee house at western Washington University playing for less than a dozen people. It’s a strange adjustment, I’ll give you that, but it’s still wonderful. The only part that really requires a head change is, when you play for three thousand people and ten percent of them laugh, three hundred people laugh. Makes the joke sound just like it was a success. When fifty percent of a twelve person audience laughs, it’s only six people, and if you are still comparing the two shows, you feel like you aren’t reaching them. You’ve got to remember to be in the now when you perform.
For my first set, I chose mostly songs from my latest CD. Those are the ones that I have been playing in shows for seven months and they were tight. And one of the benefits of playing all or most of the songs from your latest CD shows up on the break. People come up and ask which CD has a certain song from the set and I can say with joy and sincerity that all the songs you heard in the first set were on my Eternal Contradiction CD. I always sell out of the CD that I do that with.
Don’t confuse your audience by doing songs from all your cd’s in every set. Give them all the songs from a certain of your CD’s the first set and do what ever you want from wherever you want in the second set. I have arranged the songs from my latest CD in the most dramatic and impactful way I can in order to connect with the audience and to entertain them like they haven’t been entertained. I had a great time and I made a bunch of new friends and solidified my reputation as an entertaining concert performer. I had a sold out show last time and even more people this time.
I also followed my schedule of playing three times in eighteen months at the same venue. If you can do a really good show three times in eighteen months, then you can come back once a year and you’ll have an audience. The trick is getting the club owner onto the same page. Many of them have a policy of not having the same people back for one or two years, but unless you are getting lots of airplay, lots of people will forget you. But do three good shows in eighteen months and you have connected for real. You can’t beat that.
I’ll tell you about the Astoria gig on Friday.