I’ve got some solo shows coming up and I always have fun doing them. What’s not to like? Plus, performing troubadour style is both liberating and terrifying. I can do whatever I want and the success or failure is totally on me. Fortunately, I always feel successful because its challenging and a bit intimidating so just making the gig is, like, victory.
I can yodel a little bit. Not like a milkmaid in the alps, but more like Jimmy Rogers. Who doesn’t like a good yodel occasionally? Evidently a few people. When I play solo, I’ll usually throw in a Hank Sr. or Jimmy Rogers song for kicks and I can’t think of a time that people didn’t dig it.
Except this one time…
I played a hipster place and it was lots of fun. People were generous with tips and gifted drinks, a bachelorette party took pictures with me and tried to bribe me to “be the bride’s last fling”–a joke I’m sure–and all the stuff that happens when people are having a good time and enjoying the show.
The management dug it so much they invited me to never play there again. Ever. Like forever, never play there again. For this, I blame The Yodel.
My after action report can breakdown the events and analyze my mistakes and missteps, but ultimately, the booker didn’t like me. It happens and I don’t feel anything personal about it. Its business. He did what he thought best and I did what I do. If those don’t converge for mutual benefit, they don’t. It isn’t personal.
It was a challenging gig to begin with. The stage was 20 yards from the nearest table and covered by an ungroomed tree that hung like a curtain over the stage. I didn’t clarify that it was outdoors which explains the tree. However, I’m sure it there were bars in Austin that had mature trees growing inside and over the stage, I’m sure this place would have had indoor trees.
My sense of what constitutes a reasonable effort in staging makes me feel like I need to see the audience or at least be in the same ecosystem with them. I took the liberty of fetching some hedge clippers to trim the tiniest bit of the cellulose curtain so I had at least a partial line of sight to the nearest human. I’m a musician not an arborist so I only cut about foot or so off three branches, just enough to create a small window to the audience. That was strike one. I’m not sure why, though. The manager got a little excited about it so I gave an appropriate number of apologies and moved on.
I’d taken my 16 year-old son to help me load in and set up. Like the ungroomed tree, my roadie also seemed to upset the bossman. For the record, this is not a violation of any local, state or federal law (http://www.oklegislature.gov/cf_pdf/2011-12%20INT/sb/sb1944%20int.pdf) but the boss was very concerned about the boy’s age. Regardless, this was probably strike two.
Then the opening act showed up. Nobody told me there would be an opener. That was a bit a a thing as well. Me and the other player worked it out but the boss wasn’t happy about that either. That’s probably strike three or at least 2.5 for him.
Because I’m semper gumby, everything else went fine. The people were friendly and receptive and that made up for the weird staging but the management thought differently. Even though it was a cool show for me and at least part of the audience, it was evidently not really the right type of cool because hipsterness aside, the management had several doses of pretense to go with their expensively groomed and waxed facial hair. That’s their prerogative and I get a business wanting to cultivate a particular vibe and clientele but they hired me to do what I do but expected me to be something else. Well, that’s show biz.
The next day, I got an email that explained my shortcomings: “you are not musically or stylistically right for us.” To translate in non-musician terms: “Your baby is both ugly and stupid. No offense.”
It had to be the yodeling. I think that’s where I went stepped over the line. I might have avoided it but that separation from the audience required me to go deep and went all the way inside my head. The sound was great because I had a full main stack for my monitor. It wasn’t loud, just all there. I brought a few lights because, you know, show biz. I pulled songs out of my catalog that I hadn’t played for years and I was getting most of the words and chords right.
Then…Long Gone Lonesome Blues just popped right out of me. It was good too. In fact, for me it was the perfect song at the perfect moment. It just fit exactly right and the crowd seemed to dig it. I mean, if you count clapping and whooping as a measure, which I do, lots of folks liked it. Most of all, however, was that I liked it and since I’m my biggest fan, that’s important.
Yodeling, even rudimentary yodeling like mine, is usually good with a drinking crowd. However, Yodeling isn’t particularly hip and this place really needed to see itself as hip.
I still do Long Gone Lonesome Blues when the mood strikes and I have a few others with yodeling parts I do on occasion. I’ve not lost any other gigs for those yodels or, for that matter, complaints. It doesn’t really matter. I don’t take my rejection from the pretentious hipster bar manager personally. Its his place and its his decision. He may have hated me personally and wrote that email with malice intended, I don’t know and it is of no consequence. I don’t expect everybody to love me.
It’s also not personal to me that a fire that destroyed the place a few months later. That was also business, not personal. In this case, it was the end of his business but that don’t affront me none.
I feel bad for the dude and the fire was probably was personal to him. It was probably personal to his insurance company as well.
Regardless, things happen for reasons that can’t be really explained or accounted for and taste is one of them. For me, I’ll have that pretentious $15 IPA with a side of Blue Yodel #2.