Lately, I’ve made a resolution to be more engaging with people I meet. It’s safe to say that introverts have a harder time than most other people do, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to reach out more.
Last night’s gig with Susie was a good example. The event was hosted by someone with an unusual enough name that I’d better create one of those clever pseudonyms to anonymize her; I’ll call her BlondeSinger. Since I’ve played with lots of songwriters over the years, I’ve played probably five or six shows that she’s been a part of. I’ve never played with her onstage, but I’ve played plenty of evenings like last night, where she’s been a part of it and so have I. Also, she once performed on my friend’s radio show, on which I was a regular co-host, including the day of the show she appeared on.
Last night, I was one of the first to arrive. I set down my accordion and went over to say hello to her. She clearly didn’t recognize me, so I said, “Hey, [BlondeSinger]. We’ve met before, actually. I’m friends with [RadioFriend], and you played on his show, and I co-hosted with him. I’ve been playing with Susie and [short rundown of songwriters] and we’ve played together a handful of times. Good to see you again.”
“Yeah, you do kinda look familiar,” she said, and asked if RadioFriend was still doing a show, and I told her that yes, he is. “Cool.” She looked down at her phone and started texting like mad. The silence stretched out longer and longer, and it started to become a bit awkward, so I asked, “Who’s performing tonight?”
She grabbed the list of eight or so and explained each one. There’s GuitaristGirl who’s kinda folky. . .GuitaristGuy who’s kinda like Tom Waits, there’s Susie – she’s really good and has a band (“Uhh, yes, I know,” I said, “I’m IN that band.”)–” I just felt like an invisible, silent blip on her radar screen, so I decided to be done with that particular conversation. After I got the scoop on the performers, I got a glass of wine and came back to find Susie and our group of friends instead.
On the way to meet them, I ran into another songwriter who I’ve met a time or two, and once my two friends and I even spent an evening hanging out and chatting with him at Jarra’s Ethiopian restaurant a while back, when we were all there to watch a band play. I’ll call him Dreadlocks. I wandered over and said, “Hey, Dreadlocks! Good to see you.” He also showed no sign of recognition, so I prompted him with the RadioFriend thing (cause that’s also how I knew him), and the Jarra’s show, and all that. Still nothing, and I could see that this was headed for another disaster, so I cut it short with, “I’m playing accordion with Susie tonight, and I’m looking forward to hearing you play too!”
Just then, Susie and the rest of our group of friends appeared and saved the day. We sat together and talked, and watched the first couple of performers, both of whom were really great. The second performer was the Tom Waits-y guy, and he did a brilliant version of Rainbow Connection, which he followed up with one of my favorite Tom Waits songs, Hoist That Rag.
As a side note, it was brilliant of him to do Rainbow Connection, but for him to do a Tom Waits cover (despite the fact that he did it very well) when he already is so clearly influenced by Tom Waits, just seemed like a No-Duh. There’s a girl in town who sounds remarkably like k.d. lang, and who even performs a couple of her tunes, which also seems like another No-Duh. The point of all this is that I’d rather see her do the Tom Waits tune, and him do the k.d. lang tune. It adds a bit of mystery and depth to a show, instead of leaving the audience thinking, “Gosh, they sure sound like somebody. . .but who? Oh. . .right. THAT person,” instead of sounding like themselves. Just some food for thought.
After he was done, it was our turn to rock the house, and I should mention that we totally did. Just before we started, however, someone said to me, “Look up there,” and pointed at the ceiling, where an accordion was hanging, completely defiled, gutted and torn to pieces. You get used to stupid jokes like that; they just give you more incentive for veni, vedi, vici. “It’s okay,” the guy continued. “The owner of this place is an accordion player.”
“I know, actually,” I said with a smirk (because I’ve played that venue many times before, including one night when the owner was running the sound, and before I had even stepped up to the microphone or played a note, he called out, “Less accordion!” to a round of slightly drunken laughter. O, the hilarity.) “. . .but it’s still sad.”
We played four songs, and we brought down the house, if I can take the liberty of saying so. The sound was great, and the two of us performed great.
Afterwards, when Susie and our friends and I were waiting in line at the bar, a SuperCuteGirl came up and introduced herself. She was very engaging and flirty, and said she loved our set, and thought that the accordion was great. We each got a drink and sat down to talk for a while, and after about twenty minutes or so, TomWaitsGuy and his friend came over and joined us. The three of them knew each other, and we talked about the show. While we were talking, the next performer came up to me and said he was about to go on, and that he really wanted me to hear his set. He had introduced himself to me earlier, and he’d befriended me via my music page on MySpace, thanks to a couple of my mates from another band. So I told SCG that I wanted to go listen to the guy, but I’d be back. “Cheers!” she said, smiling, and we clinked our glasses together.
I watched the guy, who was very good, and talked with our group. Afterwards, we all went outside to the smoking area, where I quickly discovered that SCG was married to the friend of TomWaitsGuy. It was a bit disappointing, to say the least (especially since she wasn’t even wearing a ring!), but at least they were both friendly and cool people. In a funny, only-in-Portland way, we discovered that they had looked at an apartment in the complex in which I used to live. We had a good time talking about that.
As another side note, there’s a funny story about that apartment, actually, and the girl who used to live there when I first moved into the complex. Her cat, Hooligan, got in a fight with another neighborhood cat a couple years before, and the victim cat’s owner sued her for the vet bills. They settled in court, but not just any court. . .The Peoples’ Court. She totally lost the case, by the way, when the judge asked, simply, “What’s your cat’s name again?”
The audience laughed, and the judge banged the gavel. “Court finds for the plaintiff.”
All in all, it turned out to be a pretty dang decent night, after kind of a weird and awkward start. There’s nothing like a gutted accordion and a really great performance to make you forget about the weird stuff.