Monday, October 13, 2008
Hello again! Seeing as this is largely a blog about music and music happenings, I’ve been thinking long and hard about the perfect music story. I have performed in an acoustic duo for a good portion of the last 10 years. We call ourselves the Avery-Flynn Duo. When I think back on our years of performing live, there have been many occasions where good stories were born. I racked my brain over and over to tell the best one and my thoughts just kept coming back to the topic of hecklers. Yes, hecklers. Crazy fans. You know who you are. You are trying to be funny and are proud when you draw a few laughs, but to those whom you are heckling and being crazy to....we just really feel like killing you.
In preparing for this all-too-important blog post about cultural anthropology, I decided to consult with the ‘other-half’ of the Avery-Flynn Duo, Rich Flynn, for some inspiration and to conspire on this subject we know well. I told him that I would love to collaborate on this and knew he would have some great ideas and certainly more than two-cents to add, as he has many more years of live playing experience than I - but he also has a keen ability to keep me cracking up on stage with his hilarious comment's during a show - his sense of humor is classic...
I’ll start with one of our main heckler’s by the name of “Jad”. Yes, “Jad”, although I often want to call him “Jab” because he is like that little brother that keeps poking you in the ribs even though you are imploring him to stop... Jad always shows up about halfway through a show and stands in the very back. He is a firefighter with a handlebar mustache - fun side note that says a lot about him. Like clockwork, after listening to two or three songs, he yells out “play something good!”. Everyone else in the audience jerks their head around to see who could say something so rude. Then, now that he’s got everyone’s attention he’ll repeat, “yeah, you heard me, play something good!”. Rich and I laugh, blow him off, and tell him over the microphone to “go and get some taste!”. This happens at almost every single Avery-Flynn Duo gig and we still smile and wave when we see him come through the door, knowing what is about to occur. I guess I forgive him each time because he tips me with fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market after he has made his scene...
After coming to one of our shows, you’ll know that we love playing live music. The crowd is singing along, kids are dancing, people are requesting tunes. We love what we do..... MOST of the time. Here lies another example when there are times when the audience just isn't into it; they came to chat with friends, or they are more into the beer and sharing a laugh with their table...we certainly can't blame folks for that. But you really do just start to feel like a TV set that no one's watching. Rich & I have looked at each other during an instrumental and said, “we could literally say ANYTHING right now and NO ONE would notice! Or....so ... THIS is what it's like to be on C-Span....”
But that’s not even the worst thing. The worst thing, in our experience, is what can happen when people start making requests. Most time we do what we can and deliver pretty darn well. OTHER times, as the alcohol level rises, people start getting really adamant about their requests, and cross the line into downright rudeness or flat-out embarrassment.
It was with great humor, then, that Rich came across a joke email called "Guide for Making Song Requests to Bands". A copy of the text can be found here: http://www.leodean.com/request.html
We laughed our a**es off, not because of how silly it is, but because it's TRUE. Sadly, we have personally experienced EVERY SINGLE ONE of these examples of ridiculous behavior. Some highlights:
"When requesting a song from the band, just say "play ... my song!" We have chips implanted in our heads with an unlimited database of the favorite tunes of every patron who ever walked into a bar and all songs ever recorded so feel free to be vague, we love the challenge."
Perfectly put... you see, sometimes people request songs that we simply don't know, so we'll say "great song, but we don't know how to play it." Sometimes, they just WILL NOT accept that answer. They get offended even: "awww c'mon, it goes like this, you know it... dee da dee DEE da da DEE da..." yes, I can hum it just as badly as you can, but that doesn't mean we'll magically know the chords and all the words too, mate...
"If we say we really don't remember that tune you want, we're only kidding. Bands do know every song ever recorded, so keep humming. Hum harder if need be... it helps jog the memory, or just repeat your request over and over again."
- Yes, we know and can play “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. Don’t want to play it.
- Yes, we can do “Brown Eyed Girl”, mainly at weddings. Don’t want to play it now either, you’re drunk.
- Yes, we can do “Landslide”. Don’t’ want to play it, and risk doing a better version than Stevie Knicks with no one there to appreciate it.
- Yes, we can do “Stairway to Heaven”. Nooooo Way! That song is toooooo damn loooong!
Incredibly, quite often people will approach us in the middle of a song. Now, I have a hard time with this just singing and keeping my lyrics straight. Then I KNOW this drives Rich absolutely bonkers because he is actually carrying our sound - singing & playing guitar. As if remembering the chords - and the words - and the melody - and trying not to look like we’re struggling isn't enough for our tiny brains, people think we can listen, chat with them, and SHAKE THEIR HANDS - AT THE SAME TIME. A few weekends ago, a woman gestured for Rich to come over; he’s in the middle of singing. “Honey, I really can't lean over and chat right now... so she decides to step up on the stage, pulling on his mic stand to support her, completely surprised to find that it's NOT a telephone pole and it moves! The mic gives way, she lets it go, which makes it smack him straight in the mouth... “Great.... now that you've busted my lip, I'm REALLY interested in whatever you needed to say which definitely couldn't wait...NO, I CAN’T say Happy Birthday to your sister right now...
In summary, be kind to the folks entertaining you. Write requests on a napkin, fold in a twenty, gently place in the tip jar, and run briskly back to your table. We don’t respond to “Freebird!” requests (rightfully so), or statements like, “ You may not be playin’ the blues, but it sure is makin’ me feel bad...” Remember that WE have the power to provide YOU entertainment, good or bad. As our motto goes (and you are free to use it if you want), “We always TAKE requests, but we don't always GIVE THEM BACK.”
Pinball Wizard anyone?