Why is it that, when attending a club or concert venue where listening to music is the point of being there, do some people insist on ignoring this reality?
Last week, I visited two venues; each of which encountered this challenge.
At Katerina's Thursday, I thought it would be a great chance to catch Two For Brazil in a nice, intimate setting. The outstanding duo of Greg Fishman (sax) and Paulinho Garcia (guitar/vocal) won't likely be heard so regularly in Chicago before long, as Fishman soon moves to Arizona. It's a great loss for the Chicago jazz scene, even though he will probably be involved on a visiting basis. Greg's playing is just stellar; which is why he is well noted and appreciated around the nation and internationally. Paulinho has such a lovely, lilting voice and sensitive scat that you won't hear elsewhere. Do catch them there in November while you still can.
And, yet, their playing was disturbed by a chatty group of interlopers who seemed careless that anyone else was in the club but them. As the break ended and the music started to play, I could understand it taking a moment for them to quiet themselves. But they only got louder. At one
point, Fishman found an appropriate place in the music to take a sudden rest, revealing even to this quartet that THEY had become the center of inadvisable attention. Even after my own polite intervention asking them to respect the music and listeners, they only modulated downward their conversation slightly. Eventually, they were moved to the back table, where they found an acoustical spot that EVERYONE would hear them chatting away as if their placement now made loud conversation acceptable.
And they paid a cover charge to do this to us!
Now, I don't want to spoil anyone's fun. And joyful conversation is certainly a part of this. Nor do I wish to encumber profits for an establishment. (Admittedly, this group laid down a lot more cash than I that night.) Restaurant and club owners must make patrons happy. Yet, is there nothing wrong with asking people to keep conversation to a minimum in a club which people come to specifically for music? It is not just background entertainment they are there for. Nor mere environment. Would the same persons make such araucous at the symphony or opera house ? And, if they did, would they not get thrown out? I think it simple decorum for an announcement to be made at the beginning of every set reminding patrons of what a great thing they have the opportunity to hear here this evening, and "out of respect" to the musicians and others around them to please shut up. Really, were people to just pay attention to the music momentarily, stopping to enjoy what is there, they might grow in appreciation of the art and want to return as listeners again. And, if they don't, well perhaps another establishment is better suited for you, after all.
On Friday night, I had the opportunity to check out Tommy Emmanuel live. Emmanuel is an amazing guitar virtuoso from Australia whose renown has been growing. He finally had the chance to play a larger venue in Chicago this tour, the Park West.
Opening this show was Pam Rose. A singer/songwriter with a very nice voice and interesting tunes, she bears paying attention to, also. Look for her upcoming appearance in December on the David Letterman show.
It is only too bad that some distracted late arrivers had no clue. Now, it always takes someone a little time to settle in. This is understandable. And, I really didn't mind them being late at
all. But there is something happening here which others are trying to give themselves over to and be involved with. Can't you do so, also?
Again, one longs for the days of classic theater ushers, where such behavoir would quickly get corrected... or you'd be booted out. It would be wise of concert and venue promoters to be aware of the nature of their performances in order to make available, perhaps, well trained matrons who could accomplish this with class, when necessary. You know, Andy Frain ushers are back in service these days. They would also well suit the bill, just as well.
Obviously, I am not asking people to sit still with hands folded upon their laps like a stone. Be attached to what is happening, respond appropriately - by all means! Shoot, perhaps people ought to be MORE responsive (both positive and negatively) at concerts where this sort of decorum is understood. But don't distract and draw the center of attention away from what is happening on stage unto yourself.... unless you can perform something even better, please!
Anyway, then Tommy took the stage and things heated up. Actually, his short walk through the auditorium, itself, enabled a standing ovation before the show began.
This man can play the instrument like no one else I have ever witnessed. He doesn't just play it, he manhandles it (gently) to produce the kind ofsound scape which one never imagined might emanate. One man alone, he seems like a 4 piece band, at times. Percussive to standup bass sounds, to multiple part work all together or individual, he ran through a two hour set of musical ideas which just have to be seen and heard. Indeed, this was certainly the best concert I attended all this year. It also reminded me of the value of live music; being in a room with the air and vibrations and energy which record along can not convey. This is what music making is truly all about. Sharing something so human, yet divine, of yourself and allowing it to connect with others.
Saturday, I intended to make it out to Pops for Champagne to listen to the Ryan Cohan Quartet. Ryan is a fine musician (pianist) in town who many intelligent listeners talk about. So it is always good to find the opportunity to make a show of his. Unfortunately, other obligations prevailed. But he is there this weekend, also, so there is yet another chance for you and I, both. Here is hoping that Pops won't be as irritably noisy as it was last time I attended a show there.
Really, they have the potential of being one of the most notable jazz rooms in town, with their new downtown location, if the management only recognizes and respects this reality seriously enough to stand up for it and foster appreciative audiences. It would be a real boom for themselves, the musical scene, and the city if they did.