Regrettably, I was disappointed in the Pffefer show tonight. After all, I was promised Yiddish vaudeville! Instead I watched three musicians onstage staring at the ground. In other words, it was a concert instead of a show.
The musicians were technically very proficient. One on accordion and piano. One on bass (he also did percussion on his bass, which was very cool). One on violin. They had a guest artist play cello on two or three songs.
The pieces were good, with two Django Reinhardt tunes really sticking out for personality and verve. There were two tango dancers who danced three or four times. They also stared at the floor. One wonders what was so fascinating about the Buskirk-Chumley floorboards tonight.
The audience was a bit sparse but appreciative. For once in my life, I was seated near a group of woo-ers. I am a big woo-er. I also am a ululation-er. Even a Xena-war-cry-er. And I always get stuck by these silent sticks-in-the-mud. But tonight I was even out-wooed at points! It was amazing!
The audience gave them a standing ovation but I wasn’t moved. I felt bad for setting there, but I just didn’t feel swept away. I’d tried even closing my eyes so I wouldn’t be critiquing the stage show, but the music just didn’t reach me the way I expected it to.
One thing I noticed was how they went almost straight into an encore. I wondered how that would work in a Kaia show. But I really don’t like the concept—that feeling of an encore being automatic. It’s got to be earned, with the audience refusing to leave until they get more. Like the energy that was raging at the end of the Red Baraat show last Lotus. Always leave ’em wanting more.
Miles Davis used to perform with his back to the audience. That just pisses me off. It’s so rude. I was raised to be a performer, not an artist. I’m not into self-expression for its own sake; I think a performer’s job is to connect with and help transform the audience. That transformation can be as simple as inspiring them to clap along or tap their feet. It doesn’t need to be some huge spiritual awakening. And I take issue with musicians (and others) who ignore the audience or leave them out of the creative experience.
I’ve heard from a couple different performers that it’s bad form to close your eyes when singing because it cuts you off from the audience. I think there’s some merit to that. But I also think there are times when the process is very internal, and the audience can be moved by witnessing that.
I think Kaia is so popular with audiences because we put on a very good show. We are constantly connecting with our audiences and giving back. We look at each other on a regular basis and smile (these guys tonight made eye contact only 5 or 6 times in the course of a 55-minute concert). We present the audience with an active, engaging show. Our technical execution isn’t always up to snuff, as you can tell on our live recordings, but the energy created makes us all deaf to that. (Usually. Sometimes I cringe. :-))
The main reason why I was disappointed tonight is because I went in with inaccurate expectations. I wonder how we can communicate about Kaia shows so that people can be excited about what they’re going to get and then be blown away by something which exceeds their expectations.
My advice to musicians: Look up. That’s where the rest of us are. Let us in.