This was an interesting gig on several levels, the least being an 8:30 start on the morning after a long holiday weekend at a middle school. I left at 6 am and, thanks to smooth NJ traffic, I got there early. I made friends with the PTA lady, the custodian and set up in an empty auditorium. It is a pleasure to not to have to rush for any gig, so I had some good down time. The lads got there about 15 minutes before show time, but these guys know the routine. We were ready to go at show time.
I was glad we had the 5th and 6th graders for the first set. They were reactive and we played well. These kids do get up and dance. The band was right on. I love these guys.
Several interesting points in the first set. I ask a teacher to define “improvisation” and I usually pick a male teacher. This time the one I picked one who refused to answer and I had to pass it on to the teacher sitting next to him. There is something endemic with some middle school teachers; they do not like to lose their identity and authority in front of their students and often retreat. They also don’t get up and dance when I ask them to (Blue Suede Shoes). Those that do are rewarded generously by the audience. Go figure. Middle School is a mine field for kids and adults.
Another touchstone is the Irish Jig. Early on in the show with our mandolin jig, I ask if there are any kids taking Irish dance lessons and we more often than not have some kids come up on stage and demonstrate (with varying skills). Today, a young girl with a hefty build came up. As we started, she was saying to us that she didn’t want to do it, but with the slightest of encouragement, she lit off with a spectacular series of dance moves, high kicks and incredible confidence. She blew everyone away. And with a pink t-shirt as well. The band lives for these moments.
We had a longer than expected down time between the first and second sets, so we all find our spaces (for Kevin – on his cell phone). Nick, Wayne and Kevin and I are tight friends and we respect each other. The quick exchanges are always wonderful, with lots of winks between us.
The second set was curious since Kevin had an appointment close to noon so we did our Tight Set, when we got to move on….. We did some intuitive cuts (with everyone’s antennae up) and steam-rolled through the set. Since it was the 7th and 8th graders, this is always the best option. They are always sluggish in responses and dancing, and were out-classed by their teachers this time. I screwed up the RR Rap, but the lads picked me up and we drove the show over the finish line.
The 7th and 8th grades were polite but did not get up and move, rarely raised their hands in response to question, and unwilling to commit. But that is expected. The few that did (Irish Jig and I Like Peanut Butter) were rewarded. And the teachers are much the same.
The kids loved the shows as did the principal and PTO ladies. RockRoots continues to be a wonderfully successful show: tight, informative and entertaining with my good friends in the band.
Home before 12 noon.