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Insomnia Coffee Post-Mortem...


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Well, it has been a week (almost) of rejections. The fish hatchery in Trail hired someone else; so did a bunch of other state agencies that interviewed me. The newspaper’s auditors told them they should hire a business manager with an accounting degree, not accounting experience—not me, in other words. The last several city-manager jobs I applied for all went to people with degrees but no prior experience, too—it’s why I mostly don’t bother to apply for those jobs any more.

And then there was the Insomnia Coffee gig. No, it wasn’t good. I believe I did my part right: the setlist was good (and timed perfectly), I remembered everything (even the Rap, which I’d just finished that day), and the delivery, even of songs I hadn’t done before or hadn’t done in a long time, was good, too. And both my voice and my fingers lasted the whole two hours (though they did hurt by the time I was done—making one’s self heard unamplified in a big room is not easy).

I just don’t think the audience listened. At all. I realize that happens a lot to musicians, and suppose I shouldn’t be bothered by it—but I am. I am used to being paid attention (I have been accused of having an overdeveloped sense of self-importance). I can deal with people not paying attention—I consider that a challenge—but in this case, the crowd seemed to be deliberately treating me as a distraction, and acting pointedly like they really would have preferred it if I hadn’t been there. If I increased my volume (which I had limited ability to do, being unamplified), they increased theirs. They mostly didn’t applaud. And every person who left the place (and they mostly left in groups) did so in the middle of a song. (Some of them smiled as they left. I’m not sure what the smiles meant.)

I think, though, that if there’s fault to be found (and I’m not sure there is—but as noted above, I’m pretty sure I did everything right), it’s with the venue, not the audience. I don’t think Insomnia Coffee has done a good job of communicating to their customers that they consider the live music important—and (my opinion) until they do, it’s not going to be. In my opinion, having solicited somebody to come play there, the venue should act like what they did was a Good Thing: posters help (I gave them posters, but I don’t think they ever put any up), but generally you want to create the proverbial “buzz” that something special’s going to happen. And they should shush the crowd, both in advance and on-site. “We are having Live Music, and it’s going to be Neat. If you don’t want to hear live music, you should come at a time when we don’t have live music, which is most of the time.” In other words, give the performer—who is playing for free—a little courtesy. I think courtesy was notably lacking here.

I won’t actively solicit my going back. If Insomnia Coffee contacts me to ask me back—and I doubt they will—I will have to ask them why they’re bothering. It cost me twenty bucks in gas and roughly seven hours of my time (including two spent performing, and four spent traveling) to play at a bunch of people who pretty obviously preferred I wasn’t there. I am tempted to accede to their wishes.

Just a coincidence, but I could have gone to Jim Nelson’s open mike at the Bay City Arts Center that night. Yes, that was also unpaid, and I would have been on stage for only 15-20 minutes, but it was only four miles away, and the audience would have been respectful and attentive (and a lot of them probably would have been fans). Guess where I’d rather have been?

On the plus side, “The Dog’s Song” is done. URL is http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songinfo.cfm?bandID=183557&songID=8251748. In keeping with the original mandate to do it in the style of the Ramones, it’s rock ‘n’ roll. Not much feedback on the song, so I have to rely on my own gut feeling, which is that it’s okay. I was trying to capture the “Bubbaness” of an old dog, and still make it understandable to people, and I think I did that.

Job interviews next two days; I still have April’s “Family Photo” to re-record, and a Stan Good song to musicate, too. And a lead player to enlist for the second Failed Economy Show. Not going to do the show if I can’t find a lead player.

Joe

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