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Saturday, May 19, 2007


Dearest BanjoSnakers...

Well, last night, the foul, evil side of trying to make a living as a working musician reared its ugly head... and I'm not talking about hand-to-mouth financial conditions, either...

Roger Landes and I took our bouzouki act on a tiny road trip, opening a show for an internationally-recognized singer-songwriter in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The audience was without question the rudest I've ever played for.

Now that's saying a lot, I know. I've played in nasty dives, redneck honky-tonks, and some deeply grungy bars, but at least when you walk in the door of one of those places, you either know what you're getting into or you're really naive... this was not one of those places. This was a show that was held in the sedate, almost churchlike assembly room of a Best Western hotel...

In their defense, the audience had been primed for an outdoor show in the park, a festival-like atmosphere where the kids could romp and play while mom and dad took in a kite show and a little music. Due to rain, the show was moved inside, and I'm sure everybody was disappointed and had trouble letting go of their festival-like expectations.

But these people were Los Alamos baby-boomers, folks... people reknown for being scientists, and certainly raised better than they behaved... but they talked... and they talked louder... and their kids ran rampant... and they talked and Talked and TALKED!!

As Roger and I played our music, people as close to us as the second row were talking and socializing at full voice. First Roger and I couldn't even attempt our stage patter and do our normal chatty routine, we were so taken aback. Then we tried to connect, but either folks didn't care or couldn't hear us for all the talking. We finally just played our show like robots, occasionally looking out incredulously at the audience members that actually bothered to make eye contact with us... like we (and they) were wondering "What the hell is up?" And yet not one of them bothered to try and quiet their audience-neighbors. Neither did the promoter. I thought several times about saying something from my amplified position of power, but chickened out with the excuse that I'm a regional musician and this was my own backyard, and I'd better not shit where I eat. I sure regret it now.

When the singer-songwriter-headliner took the stage, everybody clapped and seemed to be interested, but they kept on talking. The songwriter started a fairly quiet acoustic riff on their guitar and kept it up for about a minute straight, then just stopped and stared. No one stopped talking. Finally, the songwriter said, "Hey, I was just wondering if there's anybody here who'd like to hear some music?" Of course, there was a positive (if small) response, so they said, "Well okay! Then help me keep these other folks a little quieter so that the people who want to enjoy the music can hear it and get into it." Not rude. Not demanding. Just reasonable.

The room quieted down a little bit, but still there were folks talking, kids screaming and laughing and running wild, and people milling around the room and coming and going just like they were at an outdoor festival. I literally couldn't believe it. The songwriter played on gamely, but the show was pretty terse, and they didn't even attempt to interact with the audience or really connect on anything other than a superficial level. They could've been animatronic, for all I could see.

I just don't understand it, folks. I see it all the time in concerts I attend as an audience member, and of course I see it all the time in movie theaters... theaters are even having to run short films with the previews, reminding people that they're not in their living rooms, and to stop talking and turn off their damn cell phones. What the hell is up? Weren't ALL of us raised better than that? Where the hell are our manners?!

It's occured to me that this might just be my ego... after all, people want to have fun when they go out, and part of that is socializing. Furthermore, I was paid, and paid reasonably well, to play my original music (on the bouzouki!) for an hour, and that's not an opportunity a lot of musicians have... and it sure beats mopping floors, don't I know it! But I have played in those loud, rowdy rooms when I knew that's what I was getting into, and the background noise didn't bother me at all. This was different... this was a CONCERT, with all the attendent rules of respectible social behavior, almost none of which were followed.

Stop it people. Just stop it. I want you to come see me play my music, and to go see other musicians, too. If the occasion calls for big ol' rowdy fun, then by all means, live it up. But if the occasion calls for quiet attention, give it. Keep yourself quiet, and keep your kids quiet. Teach them what a concert means. If you can't make them behave, leave the show, or leave 'em at home. Get it straight, folks. This is not some fascist infringment of your precious rights. This is decent, human, respectible behavior in certain social situations. This is part of the price we each pay to live and get along with our neighbors. I can hardly believe how often I'm confronted with this sort of crap, and as often as not, it's from a member of the so-called "enlightened, new-age, spiritually-seeking, quasi-intelligentsia" community. For God's sake, people! Can't you commit a tiny percentage of the energy you devote to being so careful about everybody else's ethnic, religious, gender, vegan, non-vegan, or whatever sensitivities to just being courteous and sensitive to your neighbors on a moment-to-moment basis? Isn't that the real meaning of the golden rule? After all, doing unto others as you'd have them do unto you could get you into serious trouble... especially if you're a sado-masocist! What we should truly be doing is not doing unto others the way we wouldn't want to be treated ourselves. I, for one, am damn sick of this. And believe me, if I'm ever confronted with it again, either as an audience member or as a performer, I'm gonna deal with it, even if it is in my own backyard.

Please, come to my shows. Help me make a living at this, and support not just me, but all independent musicians that are to your taste. And have lots and lots of fun doing it. But please, remember what your mamma and daddy taught you, have some damn manners, be a good neighbor, and if the occasion demands it, SHUT THE FUCK UP!


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