Nearly two weeks after my gig on 1.22.11, I’ve decided to give up on Evan writing the post. Which is sad. I’d been extremely excited for him to do so because of his reactions to my songs during the gig itself – as a “classically trained” composer he appreciated my chord progressions and harmonies quite a lot more than the layman. When I hit a major 3rd chord in Purple Dresshe smiled broadly, surprised, and followed all my other compositions from there very closely, focused completely like he was studying. Once he figured out my propensity for major 2nd chords he gave a flourish and point of his hand to “cue” them in for Will. During A Thousand Post-Its I saw him counting the beats and figuring out the strangeness of the chords. He asked me afterwards if Purple Dress was written in two time signatures and I felt very happy he noticed – 3/4 for the first two choruses, 4/4 for the rest of the song. He caught the musical humour in the Squirrel Song, instantly recognized Satie’s Gymnopedie as the inspiration to my Stamsund. This alone made my night worth it – someone appreciating the more technical aspects of my music, and Amanda, there again, soaking up the lyrics.
The gig started off quite harried. I’d gone to dinner across the street at The Warehouse with my mother and her friends at around 7.30, hardly having eaten all day. The food didn’t arrive until I spoke with the owner, our family friend, at 8.45. Doors at the Civic Media Center at 9. Shoving half the small bowl in, I darted across and past the usual collection of homeless people, this time less ashamed with my eyes not so averted and the air not so cold. When I arrived inside the volunteers were about to call the musicans no-shows.
I was to be only one of five acts that night. Space coordinator Jimmy informed me Erica called in earlier, sick. She’d been my ally throughout the planning process via Gchat understandings, as I’d been butting heads with James a bit on the order, the way we’d run things, how we’d split the box, etc. The week leading up to the show we communicated often, and I felt very excited and privileged to play along side her. She makes very beautiful music: http://www.myspace.com/thewoodenmusic. Her sudden cancelation – later explained as stress induced sickness – rather bummed me out.
James Wesson did not arrive until 9.15 in his Pizza Hut delivery van, dropped off a tiny drum set, amps and a synth before leaving again to pick up Joe Willis and, presumably, Ziggy Potpourri. The latter never showed nor responded to James’ calls or texts. By the end I felt happy he didn’t. It probably allowed me to quit the space a bit earlier. My mother and her friends filed in and I claimed them as “my old people” to the four friends of mine (and their companions) that showed.
Joe Willis played first, and that likely would have chased my audience away had they not been good friends of myself and my mother. They asked about the balance and my old people chorused, “Too loud!” very cutely, after which James turned the volume dial imperceptibly and they proceeded to play a song. Joe’s set ran identical to the past night, with James backing him up banging overly hard on the tiny drums. Amanda’s roommate suggested they needed to move the set about ten feet back, but unfortunately a wall at prevented this. James made no effort to ease up, but Joe stood back much further from the mic, which helped.
Honestly the volume never bothered me. The intonation did. I particularly enjoyed watching the audience cringe at his strained, flat voice. The higher the note the flatter he sang, but never flat enough to be even in key. Ginny and Beverly held fingers to their ears, game faces on, stolid determination to sit through it and I loved them for it. Laura and Evan left to get beer across the street, which they shared with Anu and Joan on their return. Amanda and Ryan had already begun drinking. Nick had sudden, often urges to relieve himself. The coping mechanisms felt like something from a comic strip.
I took the stage next to a call and response chant someone started (my mother thinks it was Laura) of “Terrence!” “Ho!” During this time Tom Miller and Hobo Joe (from the Lab) joined us. I began with Dawn to Busk and found my nerves to be relatively still – I knew almost the entirety of the 26 person audience and the rest I’d acquainted myself with in the lead up. As I went through my now expanded to 12 song set list I felt unshakably grateful for my incredible audience. They sang along to Hey Ya, were moved by Purple Dress, laughed at Car No. 5, remained still for Will caught on to the chorus and my desire to have them sing it for Squirrel Song. I sang well despite the cough my mother imparted to me the night before, with a thermos of honey-lemon tea and a day of not speaking to help me along.
Hello exemplified the night. I decided to include it last minute from the feel of the crowd, thinking it wouldn’t count as one of my allowed sad songs (Erica suggested 25% of the song were allowed to be sad). They listened attentively to the story of Karluv Most in Prague, stayed silent and waiting through the opening of the song. Then as the lyrics began I could hear them figuring out the humour one by one so that by the chorus the giggles were uncontainable. I felt like I recaptured some of the magic of that streetlamp on the bridge and brought it with me – the first time I’ve felt like I’ve successfully conveyed the beauty of busking. It was one of those performances were “you had to be there” to get the feel – a million little technical things may have gone wrong, but the feel of the room, the brisk hollow taste of the oh so light air, the suddenly dimmer lights, the hint of footsteps on stone just out of hearing and the low murmur of passing crowds seeming to suffuse it all – that can’t be captured on film.
I remembered to plug my website and mini-merch before my final song. Sales of bookmarkers added up to over half of what I received from the box. Merch seems the way to go. I thanked my audience wholeheartedly to rousing applause and calls of “Encore!” but I felt doing so would disrespect James. Perhaps I should have done anyways, as my posse – half the audience – left after his first song, Abraham.
James’ set ran nearly identical to the Tuesday set, but he seemed more comfortable in the CMC. His lyrics came through much clearer on the mics as they weren’t over delayed/reverbed as his norm. He moved fluidly from bucket drumming to singing to electric guitar to drumset to synth to computer, brushing his hair at times, too, but all things with a sense of purpose that gave the set an altogether more prepared feel. At one point he even played air guitar. The highlight of his set, to me, was Amanda’s drunken joining on the drums. She didn’t follow the beat quite right but just watching her having a ball up there made me happy, too.
I promised to meet up with my pals after his set – I think it rude to leave during another artist’s set for many reasons which I won’t get into (exemplified by Joe leaving directly after his). A long wait. James took the dropping out artists as a reason to extend his set to over an hour and a half. He conversed more with the audience, but in an alienating way, praising his own songwriting abilities and giving off an ironically snobbish aura. He prefaced one song with, “I wrote and recorded this song in just two hours, you know, just because whatever, whatdoyoucallit, that’s me on the guitar and the drums and yea I also did all the production then too, yea.” Impressive, yes, though the song betrayed it’s creation time without him needing to say a word. Most gratifying to me was Ryan’s comment after one of his early songs and songwriting interjections, “Do you know the band Modest Mouse? A lot of his songs seem to have the same openings…” I pointed out the next song as Greenday and he nodded, the next as the Pixies and he was appalled, the next was Modest Mouse again and he left.
I stuck it out until the bitter end, just before 1 AM. Laura ordered me a strong girly drink as soon as I arrived and after one 12% 12oz beer which did not taste disgusting I was quite done. We played Poke Battle: Super Smash Bros. on the N64 with no items but tons of pokeballs before crashing at Evan’s.
Earnings: $33, 50 minutes
Audience: 26 people
Song of the Day: Hello – Lionel Richie