Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Art of a Non-Listening Crowd

Last night we performed for Celebrate La Musique at CineSpace. On the summer solstice, it mirrored France's annual Fete de la Musique festival. Jean Roussou was SO kind to invite us, the world music lineup was impressive, the space was beautiful and intimate, the sound really good ... and yet the audience talked straight through both the opener and my sets.

What to do when that happens? I wish there was a website to go to for performance advice. I have seen artists walk off stage or fall silent or turn into the band and play for one another or play louder or just slog limply, angrily, sullenly through their set.

Up there in the spotlight, I mulled through my options. First, I asked the band to turn down and play at an reasonable volume despite the thunderous conversation in the room. Walking off was OUT, as I couldn't afford to pay the band myself. After the second song, I politely suggested the talkers choose one of the other five rooms to chat, while leaving this one quiet so that we could be heard.

A pause ... no one moved ... and the roar took up once again. Hmmm. Time to put on a brave smile, commit to delivering my Best, singing my heart out, and staying positive.

A big learning opportunity. Any suggestions?

Opening for BAABA MAAL @ The Knitting Factory

Flew home on Monday from dancing in a feature film (set in the sabar dance scene) all tired and happy ... only to find Martin Fleishman's invitation in my inbox to open for Baaba Maal the follow Saturday! Backflipped with excitement in the tiny space between our bed and my desk.

Given the small budget, we did a scaled-down show without bass, piano, perc. What a lovely evening. The band played beautifully, the sound was excellent, the crowd super attentative, sold a good number of CDs (thank you!), and met lots of friendly people. Aziz Faye's set after us was electric, and then onto Baaba Maal himself.

His dancers blew me away. Both of them were so cheerful, energetic, creative, entertaining, NON-STOP. Baaba looked tired. Not only was he on tour, but he had already done a show at the Hollywood Bowl the same afternoon! However, he utterly threw himself into his performance. His voice was a beautiful as always and they really threw a party until 1am.

Happy sigh.