Friday, August 19, 2011

The Audience

Back when I was playing drums pretty much every night of the week, I got used to there being those times when the house was full and those other times when the house was... haunted.

I loved playing to a full house. It was easy. The adrenaline would pump just enough to give me a bit of a nervous "edge." Playing in front of a crowd of people, in front of strangers, was a real thrill.

As any musician (or probably, any performer) knows, the house ain't always full. Sometimes it might even seem like a waste of time to climb onto the stage and do your thing. (Of course, it's *never* a waste of time to do your thing; it may just seem that way sometimes...) In my gig, we did bars. If there were really no customers, I'd play for the bar staff. (By the way, if there is absolutely nobody watching/listening, it's *practice.*) Playing for bar staff for most bands, though, is a bit like playing for your family. I mean, really, these people have seen me (er, a drinker) in worse shape than anyone in my real family ever has. They're going to start laughing at me now, when I'm actually doing my job? I don't think so... They already know I suck... Heh...

The real challenge was when we had only a handful of actual paying customers in a joint that could seat fifty or a hundred or more (I've played bars that could seat a thousand and hold twice that). We'd generally be milling about the bar area debating when we should start--"Hey, nobody ever gets here till 12, what's the rush?" Start time, though, was usually around 10. An experienced bar manager knows better than to let the band drink till midnight. He/she would usually round us up/hunt us down and make sure we were onstage somewhere near the advertised start time.

So, how do you play to a near empty room? I imagine everyone has their own ideas about this, but here's mine...

I would pick *one* person to play to. Some nights it could be a hot-looking babe, others it could be some old fuck that just stumbled in off the street. And everything in between. I had no "rule" that I was conscious of. There had to be some eye contact, however brief. But once I locked on, I was playing for that person, and that person only. They were my audience. I sweated and bled and spilled my guts for them. I played for them. I loved them...


  1. Oh, no I disagree, I think this can be relevant to many walks of life. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I suppose you're right, Michele. Thanks.