And Now, On Stage…

The last two nights I’ve been out and about listening to some local bands.  There is something really great about sitting in a venue, usually a restaurant bar, and watching people do what they love and playing passionately the music that inspires them.  These are cover bands, the men and women who aren’t aspiring, it seems, to rock the entire world.  Rather, they’re bringing back to us the music that made them love music.

I play piano and sing.  A lot of people can do that.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be in some groups along the way, and public performances have always been exciting and fulfilling to the musician in me.  If you’re captivated by someone else’s music then it is an envigorating and happy thing to be able to do it justice with your own performance.  Find the audience, treat them to a great performance and everyone is happy. 

The bands I saw this weekend are really good.  The musicianship is professional, and any one of these guys could work as studio musicians.  That they don’t, and have day jobs to go to during the week, is a testament to how much they love the music.  There’s a die hard attitude in the person who works 40 hours and then devotes his or her off time to playing and singing to a crowd of people who, half the time, have consumed enough alcohol to dim their appreciation of just how much excellence surrounds them.

When I was a kid, my parents used to show me off to their friends by having me perform for them.  I didn’t mind playing , but I remember one time in particular when some of them started talking while I played.  Even as a kid of about 12, I knew I had become a background to their conversation, so I stopped playing.  What was the point if they weren’t really listening?  I was indignant, a trait that is not easily accepted from kids, and I’m sure they probably apologized and wanted me to continue.  But how could that have been sincere when it had meant so little to them to begin with.

That brings me back to these venues in which the bands play for hours amid loud talking, clinking glasses and relative unattention from a number of the patrons in the “audience”.  It has to be possible to play through this because you are so involved in the music, as the musician, that you aren’t focused on anything else.  I’m not sure I totally get it, because I’m one of those who would prefer to sit and listen to a group without noise of aggravation.  Dancing is good, movement is good…but no noise, please.  It’s like going to an art gallery with sunglasses on.  What’s the point? 

Obviously these guys are doing fine.  They’re making music, some money and enjoying themselves beyond the confines of the environment.  Of course, the energy is high and there are the majority of the crowd that come to see them on purpose.  They don’t wander in and discover there’s a band, these are the fans that accumulate through the hours and days spent building a reputation and a following.   

So, it’s a toss up.  I love the energy of the crowd, but dislike the disruptions that occur when a drunk stands up in the middle of the floor and attempts to be part of the show.  It’s an annoyance that inhibits my enjoyment.  But, maybe only mine.

For my part,  I hope the good bands get a chance to play someday in a place with great acoustics and an audience that is solely focused on the music and the musicians.  Everyone deserves that opportunity to feel the love and appreciation that comes from being completely the center of attention.  As an artist or musician, not having the accolades and applause that are generated by thoughtful and enthusiastic patrons leaves a dry spot in the performance.  Being background noise is not the pursuit of the serious.

So, here’s to great bands, great venues and appreciative audiences.  Go see some live music.

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