I had another two-plus hour set at Shankara’s Vegan Restaurant. Again, it’s fun to play acoustically in this old SouthSide building. I sit in the window area of an old department store, so it sounds great in that space, and its loud enough to project out into the eating space. There were some more folks than usual, including an East Indian couple with a young daughter with a stuffed white dog in hand.
I played to her, of course, and we struck up a relationship across the room. She smiled when I stuck out my tongue at her, she started to lean back and forth, so I did, too. She really enjoyed clapping after songs, and she became the darling of all the other patrons.
After a while, I came down and sat at the table with my mandolin and played a tune, and her eyes just lit up. I then followed with ‘I Wanna Be a Dog’ and she imagined the dog singing, scratching, howling, etc. It was an amazing connection.
I resumed my seat in the window, she got up and started to dance (some nice moves, too) and, again, all the patrons beamed. I said that it was strange that no one else was dancing.
When she and her family left, she came up and we exchanged high-fives about 25 times and her eyes were glued on me as she walked through the door. I did give the family my Peanut Butter CD, so the seed is planted once again. That’s pretty cool.
While I was playing, a nice lady came in and parked right up front and listened intently. I was somewhat embarassed to play at such close quarters (being an introvert), so I closed my eyes and played to the best of my abilities. She was there to listen.
After I finished, I struck up a conversation with her and she said she was a teacher (I said that was why she was probably enjoying my stuff) and that she was a gym teacher. I gave her the Playground CD for her classes and asked that she pass it along to the PTA for a gig. I had played at this LV school several times but not recently. She said a particular kids performer I know had played there for three years in a row. I was not surprised.
My competition utilizes modern media (singing and playing guitar with tracks) which some folks (especially new PTA moms) think this will appeal to the kids. Big production. What I do is the antithesis of this performance approach. I rely on establishing the personal connection first, with a less demanding insistence on a ‘wall of sound’.
Also, my competition has a steep fee that works, in some ways, against me, the local and cheaper performer. When new bookers look at the slate of assembly possiblities, some folks equate the fee with the quality of the show. This ties in with the slick media-driven productions. “There’s so much going on, it must be worth the price.” Bull shit. (Excuse me….)
So, I have found that I underestimate my fees for some schools, overestimate fees for small schools, and have to negotiate this new economy. Back in 2008, I was asking for, and getting very nice fees for me, though less than my competion. The collapse of the economy tightened everyone’s belt and brain. Schools got scared, PTA’s suffered and there were fewer arts programs funded. And, when TESTING became the driving force in education, even teachers are under the microscope. It’s not a good economical model.
Long story, but it was an interesting gig: marinated tofu dinner (which will feed me royally for three days), $17 tips, gave away two CD’s., played guitar and mandolin for my own benefit and for a responsive and caring audience.
Now, off to a Steppin’ Out! reheasal.