So here’s the situation. You’ve been booked for a charity event, but you’re not sure what the charity is for and rather than finding out, you decide to watch “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” cause it was one of the only things Steve Poltz talked to you about at the San Diego Music Awards…
You are playing acoustic, and a full band with a brass section and DJ just got off stage, and you’re standing in the wings with your dinky little loop pedal hoping that your goofy beatboxing matches the intensity of a drummer who’s been playing his whole life… when a small (But absolutely gorgeous!!!) girl walks up onto the stage and explains what the charity is for. She talks about her good friend/relative who passed away and they show an emotional video of a celebrity singing a sad song about the deceased, and the entire room turns into one giant “snifflefest”.
Two funny MC’s walk up on stage and awkwardly try to announce you, by saying, “He’s been called ‘The Next Jason Mraz’!” (Which is kinda racist, you think cause you’re the only white guy with a fedora there…) But no one really cares that you’re about to play, cause they’re still crying about the loved one…
So… What do you do??? Punk???
All I can say is that without tragedy in my own life, (And 5 years of shows under my belt,) I would have curled up into a ball and gone back into the green room, broken, embarrassed, and defeated. Thankfully, I was able to deflect the situation with 3 easy steps. Follow me to a world of wisdom for entertainers!!! 😛
1. Relate: You must figure out a way to reach your audience. It is essential to be genuine here. Do not lie and put yourself into a story you heard someone else tell, and DEFINITELY DO NOT make something up. (You have no clue what people will come up and ask you after… You made up a story about a relative trampled by an elephant??? The one guy in the world who’s brother was an elephant trainer and died in a tragic accident will be in the front row… I think that’s part of Murphy’s Law…) Be real. Tell them why this subject irritates, hurts, devastates or bothers you. Explain clearly why it touches your heart, and then play them something that can bring their spirits back. You may not be able to console someone with words, but music is the great equalizer that can bring comfort to the broken and closure to the hurting.
2. Adapt: I was planning on taking my loop pedal up and beat boxing/playing “Just Let Me Love You”, but there is absolutely no way that the time it would have taken to setup/start playing would have worked in this situation. (People would have bailed!!!), and that song would definitely not appropriate, (You don’t wine about breaking up with your girlfriend when someone’s brother has passed away…) so I left my pedal on the ground, walked up, plugged in, and immediately talked about my brother’s story. Hurt is to hurt as hurt is to hurt. There is comfort in a group of hurting people that is hard to explain, and when I told them about my hurt that was similar to theirs, it felt like they opened up to my music. I followed my story with my song, “Never Gonna Let You Go”, which talks about protecting a loved one, and I think they all “Got it”.
3. Move On: At the end of the song, I thanked everyone for their donations to the organization and for allowing me to be a part of it, and moved on to the next song- Pocket Change. People started talking midway through my first song, (which is what people who don’t listen to singer/songwriters do… And most of LA… But this was the OC, and that is TOTALLY different… I guess… :-P) and so I knew that my audience had assembled, and were paying attention, and ready for my show. From there, you kill it, and get off stage – don’t linger, cause no one needs that after dealing with a tremendous loss. You play your “Greatest Hits” and allow them to come back to you after their grieving… (And feel bad for the poor kid who has to follow you!!!) If you really moved them, they’ll find you. And 1 genuine fan is better than 20 “Hey-I-Think-I-Saw-That-Guy-Play-Once” fans.
So there you have it- the cure to uncomfortable slots at shows where you could have been drowned out, ignored, or forgotten. (or all of the above….) Whether it’s the booker’s fault, dumb luck, or a situation you caused with your stupid-ass big mouth, the best thing you can do is take a second to breathe, think, and execute.
I had a great time tonight. If you guys haven’t heard about http://www.gij411.org go and check out what they are doing. They were featured in the OC Weekly and have a great mission to support. (And they have AMAZING rhythm!!! My band better watch out!!!) 😀
Lastly, thanks to Julian. You did a great job tonight, and the fact that the hosts said my name right, totally made up for all the incorrectly spelled e-mails. 😀 You done good kid!