is not my idea of a satisfying gig. And yet so often, that's the lot of aspiring bands and those who would be lead singers in bands. Bayview Sound, for example.
Though it was a lot of fun to rehearse, choose our songs, polish them to a tee, perfect our harmonies, create a set list, dress for the occasion in western garb, scour the thrift shops for cowboy boots and hats, show up early to set up and rehearse, once the music started we became invisible, background noise, something to fill the quiet air between sales pitches for various items in a silent auction happening nearby.
What has happened to audiences? Why do so many music performances become mere background for something else more important? Why have music at all---at places like farmers' markets, fundraising galas, birthday parties---if the audience is at liberty to roam around, chat, walk right in front of the performers while chatting, take over the mic between songs for sales pitches?
Nice people, the WAIF organizers; nice charity, the animal shelter; nice donations, the givers of the auction premiums. Nice treatment of the volunteers who donated their time and music to the evening? Not so great.
I know that there are times and places that are appropriate for background music, for music that gets no applause, no attention. Funeral preludes come to mind, perhaps a quiet flute behind muffled tears; at a bedside while families gather; to underscore the reverence of a meditative time.
I expected to be background music yesterday; I knew it would be that way. It's been that way for almost every gig we've taken in the past year. We stand up there behind the mics singing our hearts out with the carefully rehearsed harmonies that we feel are our best feature, while people ignore us. The major exception to this rule was the Pete Seeger concert, when people sat in seats facing forward and clapped afterwards.
The sad thing yesterday was how hard we had worked to prepare for this gig. It was a donation to the animal shelter. If we'd been paid, we could have asked for a few hundred bucks but it was a donation. We had learned a bunch of new songs for this one, since it was a western theme and cowboy songs were requested. We were glad to do it. We knew we wouldn't get paid, but the guy who asked us to perform was grateful and said he'd make sure we got a nice meal out of the deal. (Originally we weren't even going to get food after the performance unless we bought $75 tickets.)
Well, we made nice about it, but the upshot was that, after all the paying guests had left for the gala dinner in the dining area, set up with centerpieces and glassware and cloth napkins, we were presented with a few bags of deli meat, sliced cheese, generic chips, cheapo bread, and whatever beers or generic sodas we could scrounge out of the coolers' melted ice. Oh, and a couple boxes of dried-up donut holes and mini-donuts for dessert. We were starving, after singing for 90 minutes, watching the servers roaming with their platters of hors d'oerves, far out of our reach.
There was a good part, though, and that was sitting together in the cool evening munching these self-made sandwiches and chips and talking about how good we sounded together, even though hardly anyone clapped or even paid attention. That's the whole reason we're singing anyhow, the joy of making those harmonies, whether anyone's listening or not. I guess I'll keep doing it.