Being a musician for as long as I've been doing it, you start to notice quirks about people in the way that they "listen" to live music. I've had good shows. I've had awful shows. I've had shows that test my will and make me want to Brett Favre my career away. I've had great shows that make me believe that this is what I'm supposed to do. And most of this is due to people's reaction, support, and enjoyment. There are sometimes people who will ignore and not clap for the musician even if their life depended on it (it doesn't depend on it, so maybe that is just an exaggerated cliche'.) There are sometimes people who will get a little too into the music and want to make multiple suggestions about what you can do better. There are people who yell out to play songs that I have no idea how to play, yet they irrationally believe I can all of a sudden learn the song and lyrics and play it anyway.
So I have two examples from my show last Friday at Pyramid Sacramento:
1) I played the first hour of songs and only played two of my own songs- all the rest covers. I prefer to play my own stuff, but my job is also to entertain. When winning over a crowd, many times you have to play songs that people know (or you have to make people relate to your own material, which is more difficult but many times possible.) Playing all covers may be the basketball equivalent of getting a little lazy on defense on a possession and getting beat baseline or not boxing out.
So I get done with Act I and a guy comes up to me. He says, "Hey man, your cover of 'Billie Jean' was really great- I like the way you play that song. I was just wondering though, are you going to play any of your songs? I went onto to Myspace and checked out your songs and I was wondering if you could play those songs?"
Wow, right? I absolutely came back from break and played a bunch of originals (and mixed in a couple covers near the end, but the ratio was more favorable.) The show actually was more interesting because that little spark of confidence was just what I needed to engage people in my own songs. I really would like to thank that person who came up to me and gave me a great amount of confidence (sometimes you need a little kick in the pants, even if it is with positive confidence.)
2) At the end of the show, I made sure to say, "If you want to buy a last minute CD or throw a tip in the pitcher feel free." Then I began to clean up my stuff. I leave it out for a good 10 minutes before I have to put my CDs and tips away. It typically takes me three or four trips to get all my equipment to my car so people have plenty of time to get a CD or leave a tip.
I went to get my car, and then I brought both of my PA speakers out to my car (at the same time- watch out for the guns- they'll getcha.) And as I'm collecting the second trip, I guy comes up to me with money in his hand and says, "oh, where's the place for tips, is it already gone?" I said, "I've just been cleaning but if you want a CD or leave a tip they are right here" and I opened a plastic container with everything. He gives me a weird look and says "oh, nevermind," and walks away awkwardly.
Look, I'm all for people tipping me, and I fully understand that some people tip, and some don't. It's not like I tip every single time I see a tip jar at an ice cream place or at a restaurant where they have a tip jar and you order from a counter. Occasionally yes, but not always. So I get it if you don't want to tip some musician that you didn't know was going to be there- but if you're digging it, a buck or two doesn't hurt. HOWEVER, if I walk up to someone with money in hand and ask where the tip jar is, I'm not walking away awkwardly without leaving a dollar. Excuse me for having to clean up my equipment. I'm sorry I can't leave the proper environment for someone to tip 10 minutes after I'm done playing. In fact, feel free to tip WHILE I'm playing to avoid such a weird predicament.
So the guy Brett Favred me on the tip (yep, second usage in this blog- let's make it a verb!) It's really not about the 85 cents in nickels he was going to give me, but rather the principle of it.
I guess the moral of the story is that being a musician is a lot of fun and even when something weird happens, it usually is something to laugh at later.