There are the easy gigs and there are the hard ones. The easy ones are when the rules of engagement are established and understood. The audience comes ready to hear the stories and I come ready to sing them and we have a conversation together over beers and wines or teas and coffees.
The hard ones are when the rules of engagement aren't agreed upon by both parties. This can be illustrated by a room where I'm telling the stories and no one is listening. I'm the background music to the frat party that happens to be taking place just feet from the stage.
Now don't get me wrong. I don't mind being background music as long as you tell me ahead of time that that's the gig.
Last night was a hard one. And it was a wake up call telling me I haven't had a hard one in a while. I don't fault anyone in that room last night talking with their buddies while I was singing songs. Hell, we're all entitled to a Saturday night where we have some fun. But man, it was a test of my cool, my focus and whether or not I was capable of steering a ship gone off course.
For the record, I played a great set to the six people who were listening in the corner. Thank you, Six People. For the record, I wanted to cry when I got done so I went outside to pull myself together.
While I was outside a young man who was one of the six listeners came up to me and told me how much he liked the set. Not only that he told me how much he was impressed by my stage presence. He said he's seen performers in that situation play one song, tell the audience to "F- off" and walk off the stage. And then what I told him was something I needed to hear myself.
I told him that we, at the the bottom of the barrel, don't have the luxury of only playing the good ones. If we're hungry (and broke) then we try to play the best show of our lives every time we're up there no matter what's happening around us. We try to honor the listeners and be grateful for the chance to be heard.
Not everybody gets a chance to tell their story. Not everyone gets the gig. My take away is that maybe I need more hard ones to remind myself what the job is and what the privilege of playing the good ones feels like. It's hard to keep it together during the hard ones. But if you're hungry enough you say, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"