This is quite an amazing gig for me, on so many levels. It is a fat, phat gig. Here’s why.
It’s an annual gig that pays well, so it financially anchors the end of the year for me, especially with this tight economy that I’ve constructed for myself. It gives me a decent chance to square my family obligations to start the new year, and that’s my main vein in my life these days.
I have a history with these folks at the CC, not just the families, but with the staff as well. Several waitress’s say hello, the folks who book me are glad I am there, so there’s a welcome mat out for me that is really quite warm, from a different angle than the audience’s.
I do two ‘sittings’, one at 9 am and another new one at 12 noon. So it was two hour sets for each segment, and though the songs repeat, the situations vary greatly. It’s two major social performances. It is hard work, but always informative. I love the challenge.
The 9 am sitting was fairly sparse for a large dining hall, still about 85 folks on hand, mostly families of several generations. That’s what makes these gig meaningful for me. The kids are automatically drawn to the live music and the bag of instruments (!!) but the second wave of folks who engage are usually the grandmoms and their really young toddlers, encouraging the wee ones to interact with the live music. These are the keepers.
One instance stood out among many, many others, with a grandmom and child standing in complete awe of the situation. A man with a guitar, singing songs, and there’s a pile of PA equipment next to him. I’m not sure what caused the wide eyes more and that was sobering.
The grandmom, as it turns out, was a former teacher, and she knew what was happening. She offered various shakers, but the kid just stood and stared. ‘What the heck is going on here?’ This is when I rise to the challenge. Over the course of this long set, this little child, with the encouragement of this woman, picked up a shaker, got comfortable and felt the connection with the three of us through the music. During my break, I encouraged the lad to touch the strings, led by the grandmom. The certain look of transcendence is palpable. Triangulation is a powerful tool and it’s why I insist on participation with dads, moms and the family.
The second sitting was a zoo, with 240 folks in the room, so I launched into my immediate engagement mode, encouraging kids to come up and join in. It was a ton of fun, though there was lots more of chatter in the outer regions. So I directed my energies to the kids and grandfolks in front of me. We danced, sang Jingle Bells, played shakers, and carried on, regardless of the tables around us. We had a good time among ourselves, though not invisible to the general room.
I aim my attentions to the kids in front of me, though only four, eight or eleven at a time. I know that folks at the tables are reacting with their families to the music, the humor, and the comfortable atmosphere that I have a small part in establishing.
These folks at the CC know how to lay it out in style. An incredible buffet, with shrimp, oysters, salad bar, dessert bar, omelette bar, ice cream sundries, etc. The wait staff is professional, the chefs friendly, and the folks that hire me most gracious. My friend Jack McGavin was even hired as the Santa. Carriage rides, hot chocolate, the whole deal. It’s an amazing display for the CC members and family.
And that’s the point. It is about families. The kids light up when they walk in the room, hearing the live guitar, and they are instantly, magnetically drawn to the music. Parents relax, and let the kids come up, the grandparents get to interact with the kids, and the parents get to socialize with each other in style. And then there’s the Christmas dress-up for the kids, especially the girls. Lots of twirling around and that’s always a precious moment of pride for the girls, and a delight for me to watch, having a lovely daughter myself.
Brothers get to interact with older sisters, and I witness all that interaction between siblings, parents and grandparents. The air is thick with connections.
I get the best seat in the house. The music makes it all happen so naturally. I’m glad I can be at the nexus of it all, in my own way.
I actually got some fat $20 tips today, the first time I’ve ever got tips in this situation, and, yes, I eyed those Jackson’s with glee and an empty gas tank, it was a nice complement on what I had done, and the music I had shared with these dads and their families.
I connected with many folks this afternoon, across many social, economic and generational divides, and brought some Christmas cheer to a wide swath of folks.
It was a wonderful way to finish an intense weekend of music, and it felt good to collapse on a Sunday night, even though the Eagles coughed it up to Dallas later. Yin Yang.