Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Shows

There are shows and there are shows. Some gigs just go better than others. I don't know why, it's just the way it is.

For instance, I played a show on July 9 at Bryant Square Park. And I thought the show went well. Part of that might be because we were being paid fairly well for that one. And we had a built-in audience. The park was having an ice cream social (yeah, I know--that doesn't sound very rock'n'roll), and since I was the first person ever to perform there, and they liked me, they called me for the gig. Bruce and Dennis were with me for that one, and we had a pretty good crowd. All in all, it was a blast. Did I mention that we were being paid well? Not that it's about the money or anything.

July 17 I was at the Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis. It was a DEMO benefit showcase. DEMO (Diverse Emerging Music Organization) is headed up by legendary former First Avenue honcho Stephen McClellan and endeavors to give all types of artists a stage to perform on. Dennis and I played a couple of shows for them in the past, one at the old Acadia and one at the Red Room. Both were fun, so I decided to do it again.

Part of the fun of these shows is hearing the other acts. Stephen likes to book five bands for these showcases, and it's usually an interesting mix of talent. I like to be supportive of the other bands, so I was there from the start (8 PM) right to the end. Andy Juhl kicked things off, and everything about him said "Neil Young"--his band, his songs, everything. Which is not a knock on Andy. If I'd said he reminded me of Styx, then I'd be slamming him. But Andy was very good, and I was happy to oblige his request to swap CDs.

Following Andy was Jonathan Dessi-Olive, if my memory serves me correctly. Jonathan played solo on acoustic guitar and vocals. He used a lot of pedals on his guitar to get some different textures going. His songs were fairly high energy and, to me, were screaming for a band. IMO he would do well to add the usual musical accompaniment, i.e. drums, bass, guitar, etc.

Then came the Pistol Whipping Party Penguins, the operative word being "party". These guys played bluegrass like it was party music. Which it is obviously, when they are playing it. They had a ton of energy, and filled the room with their friends/fans, and I wondered what I should do to follow them.

My set was coming up, and Stephen had a plan to get Dennis and I up there ASAP so as to not lose the crowd. It was a nice idea, though difficult to pull off. By the time we got set up and started playing it was quite apparent that most of the people in the audience were the wives-girlfriends-family-friends of the Penguins. Just like Jonathan's crowd was his parents and his sister and his friends. And Andy had the dinner crowd. So...what I'm getting at is the room fairly cleared out before we played a note. A couple of the Penguins stuck around for a while, and my new friend Andy Juhl was still there. I suppose it's not the sort of thing I should shout out to the world in a blog--that nobody showed for the gig. But the fact is I admittedly made a weak effort promoting this show. My last-minute text messaging (it's Thursday night, r u looking for something to do at 11 PM?) was fairly ineffectual.

But we played our asses off, for Ted behind the soundboard, and Stephen and Andy, and the bartender, the waitress, and Atomic Flea--the next band. And while we were playing a couple walked by the big windows, looked at us, and decided to come in. Tory (or did he say Cory?) and Erin were their names. And afterwards I gave them free CDs for stopping by.

Yeah, it was a small crowd. But I'll say this--they were listening. Andy had the dinner crowd, which was chatty. And Jonathan's crowd was chattering away so much that you couldn't hear his lyrics. You couldn't help but listen to the PWPP--they just overwhealmed you. But the chattering room noise marred the sound I thought. But our "crowd" was listening.

So we wrapped up our set and turned it over to Atomic Flea. They didn't have much of a crowd either. In fact I didn't see anyone new walk in. But I stayed and listened. They had a real cool Beatle-y poppy thing going. Two guys with acoustic guitars and some sweet hamonies, occasionally augmented by pedal steel guitar and rhythms coming from a laptop. tasty stuff, I thought. You shoulda been there.

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