Pffefer

April 1, 2011

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.


The night before Lotus

October 4, 2009

…and all through the house / no musician was stirring / not even this louse.

As usual, I was in a coma with my head underneath the pillows. I dimly, blearily became aware of a distant pounding or kicking somewhere in the neighborhood. Cursing those pesky kids, I dove back into sleep.

But the pounding continued. Slooooowly it dawned on me that this might have something to do with me, since the whole house was shaking.

Suddenly I was awake and grabbing my glasses, scrambling for the phone in the kitchen. In that nanosecond that feels like eternity, I’d considered whether to confront the unknown entity at my front door with a variety of weapons I keep around the house. But I’ve had enough of these experiences to hear the advice of, most importantly, an attorney friend who sez, “Keep it for the police.”

I dove into the kitchen and grabbed the phone, trying to find the best place where I couldn’t be seen from any vantage point. 9-1-1, here I come. The dispatcher got the cops on the road before she finished asking me the bureaucratic questions, but I didn’t know that at first. Hence, my bewildered fury at being asked questions about myself when there seemed to be a crazed monster at my front door.

I grabbed my best knife from the kitchen drawer and huddled down into the shadows, trembling violently. My imagination was screaming that the wannabe intruder would come around to the back door, which would imply an even more serious intent to commit mayhem.

The 911 dispatcher stayed on the line with me. My terror did not abate when she said, “oh, yeah, I can hear him now.” Augh!

After an eternity of probably 3-4 minutes, the police arrived. They confronted an incredibly drunk man pounding on my front door. After I was sure the police had the matter in hand, I crept into the living room to eavesdrop on their conversation. The drunk thought he was on a completely different street, in a completely different block. The cop kept saying, “No, this is [my address].”  I was like, “No! Don’t give him my address!”

One thing led to another and the drunk ended up face-down in my front garden, the cop pulling at his band of plastic handcuffs. Flashback to NYC when I was at the Republican National Convention and surrounded by cops with the same cuffs. Deliberate breathing brings me back to the present.

Eventually they (3 cop cars) got the guy into one of the cars and they took off. The dispatcher got off the phone, leaving me with shattered nerves. I popped every kind of tranquilizer I could, herbal and prescription, to try to calm down to go back to sleep. We had our debut at Lotus in fewer than 12 hours! And little time to sleep before then.

Eventually the terror passed and to sleep I went. I still start at loud noises and anything that makes the windows shake. I love my house but sometimes fear my neighborhood. And the Lotus debut went brilliantly. All’s well that ends well??