I just realized that I promised, more than a year ago, to start a blog on this site. It’s funny, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Part of me thinks that there isn’t really an audience for such a thing, and the other part feels like my blogging muscles flex best on my Patreon page.
Still, a promise is a promise, so I’m going to try. And when gigs dry up once the weather turns in the late fall, I’ll probably be looking for an outlet. Is there a better time to start than right now? My sources say NO.
Tomorrow night I’m playing a beach gig in Lutsen. I call it a beach gig because, while it was originally booked as a campfire gig, campfires are not allowed in northern Minnesota right now due to extreme fire danger. So what was originally booked as an unplugged performance for people around a campfire has become a rather ragtag affair of sitting on a picnic table in the middle of a beach playing for people who aren’t really sure why I’m there. Without the campfire, there is no stage - no place to perform without looking like a random guy on the street corner playing for tips.
Since there is no place to congregate, it’s tough to find a rhythm with an actual audience. People may stop for a song or two. Some might sit longer. Others might pass on by without stopping at all because they don’t realize that I’m supposed to be there, or they may have somewhere else they need to be. It’s not the easiest way to play, and it would ruin musicians who need strict structure in order to perform.
But I grew up learning to be artistically flexible and tolerant. I played on the street a lot as a kid (and as an adult, frankly) and really enjoy the challenge of entertaining a moving audience. It takes thick skin, confidence, and a sense of humor, but once you find your way it can be very rewarding.
You just have to remember that there are people who aren’t going to like what you’re doing. You will never please everyone, but on the street (or a beach), they are free to move on. And those you DO please will like it a lot. It feels good to get a thumbs up, or even a smile, from someone passing you on the street. People might wave from a car window, or wiggle a kayak paddle in the air. Children might giggle. And there might be a nice tip in it for you.
As it turns out, most people like to be surprised by a singer on the sidewalk. Or the beach.
So, despite the lack of a fire at tomorrow’s campfire gig, I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be great fun, and a real chance to practice making quick, but meaningful, connections with an audience. Plus, I’m playing music on a beach! What’s to complain about?