These are strange gigs. I was hired as an emcee/performer (why not?) for the Center City Allentown’s tree lighting/Santa arrival on the PPL plaza in A’town. I get hired to be the lubricant and point person for some of these events, which ain’t so bad since I get paid for it. And I have to play outdoors when it’s 30 degrees outside.
I played some tunes in front of a few folks gathered at 4 pm. So, with my bag o’ tricks, I launch into connecting. A few rythmic Christmas tunes to set a beat/tone, Zat You Santa Claus to have some fun, and invite the kids to play with me up on stage. Boy, do the cell phones come out for that!!
Get the dog and ponies up early in the set. Nothing but Vaudeville, ya know.
I got the word that Santa was on his way, sitting in the back of a heated fire truck. Last time, he came in the back of a hook-and-ladder. Much, much cooler…. He had Mrs. Claus and the Mayor in the cab with them, so I had the crowd cheer, did Santa Claus is Coming and other tunes til he got the message to get his ass up on stage for the tree lighting. As it were, the weather guy who was supposed to be LIVE from the site with his weather report was somewhere else… So the mayor got me to stretch it, which was a lot of fun. We had kids on stage, da mayor (who is a good drummer, actually), the Phantom’s mascot Melvin. Great energy leading up to the tree lighting.
A near full moon rose over the now-lit tree and the urban skyline as we moved on from the Santa Frenzy. I introduced several local music and dance organizations: a local church bell choir (my mom did this), a local aggressive dance troup (great, with nice community support in the crowd, another Latino arts movement youth group, run by a fellow teaching artist from PASELA eight years ago. There was great energy in the plaza, and it was nice to see folks hanging out in spite of the cold (32 degrees but no breeze).
We all pulled off a nice community event, involving a good cross section of music and family connections. I actually got up a danced to a latin tune myself. Worked on the bum hip and got my juice flowing for a short set I had following.
Milton, the Mascot was a wonderful foil to help me get connected to the crowd and encourage the kids to dance and interact with me when we got them up on stage. Together, we got to connect in what we were trying to do. Showbiz ya know.
After all had subsided, I finished up with a couple of tunes, as the sound crew was reeling it in. I thanked all the right folks and finished at 6:52, which was eight minutes before the contract said I was supposed to finish. Tsk, tsk. The sound crew and the city crew were quite grateful.
I drove back to the Southside at an early 7 pm. listening to Celtic music on DIY, deposted the check and home at 8 pm. Not too shabby.