Saturday, January 21, 2006
Sometimes you learn something.
Funny situation: Michael, one of the Israeli ITPers, invited me a few days back to perform some of my electronica at a party of his. Sure, why not? I’m a performance slut — whatever. So we talk about it for a few minutes during the week and he gives me the info and great. Today I find some free time to get together my sounds and practice a bit and I walk down to the spot near Broadway and Canal, the location of the party. Excellent.
So I get kind of off-put by the woman who is, I guess, in charge. “I don’t really have time to talk, I’m trying to get ready and it’s already late.” This, the response to my: “So, is this place a photography studio during the day or something?” Okay. Fine. It’s a party — no time for idle banter. I understand.
It’s a minor bump. Michael turns up and helps me get things together and we talk for a few minutes. He plays some mp3s off of his laptop while I wind up and a few people begin to turn up and wander into the main room to get a drink and chat. Someone inflated dozen off balloons that float against the high white ceiling with their ribbons trailing down to head level — a charming effect. And so I kick off my set — starting peppier than usual and lingering on different ideas anticipating a long set. Fine fine. And I’m into it. It sounds good. I feel some energy coming out of the speakers that seems to match that coming from the mp3s — party energy. And so I keep it thumping with my techtronic house-ish synthy mish-mash. It’s fine. Not too great since I’m actually a bit rusty (not that I was ever that great at live performance). But okay. A couple of people come up and ask what I’m up to and seem kind of interested. One guy seems to want more dance.
And then I start getting weird vibes. Someone asks for hip-hop (which I equated to asking an acoustic guitar-weilding singer-songwriter if he wouldn’t mind playing a few metal tunes). I would’ve loved to play some hip-hop, but I’m standing in front of Ableton Live packed full of my own silly samples and I’m just incapable of playing hip-hop at that point. Sorry. Then at about 11:30 the hostess comes over and asks if I could “change it up” some, play some hip-hop or something slower. (Hip-hop again.) So. Fine. I just give up and fade myself out and Michael’s laptop with some hip-hop mp3s back in. Michael has disappeared to go pick up some more booze.
I take a walk outside.
I mean, it’s embarrassing, right? It’s one of those moments you get as an artist that you have to kind of accept as the cost of doing business: sometimes you’re just wrong for your audience. This crowd didn’t appear to be art students, definitely not techie-art sorts, and who’s to blame them — they want something they know how to get into. Hip-hop, I guess. But still. My music — suck though it just possibly might — is a personal sort of thing. And to be turned off is embarrassing in a way not unlike being shut down by a girl who you might kind of have a thing for (not so extreme, of course, but in that neighborhood of emotion). And I think every “real” artist (meaning, someone who actually produces and seriously attempts to get it out into the world) knows this feeling. And should have the empathy to recognize how that discomfort works when dealing with a situation in which an artist is doing there thing and it’s just not working for the audience. Which happens from time to time and must be dealt with like other uncomfortable situations must be dealt with.
I want to reiterate that I’m neither dissing on Michael nor the party itself. It was a good party, I think. People turned up, drank, danced, talked the night away. I hope it was a success — and I hope to get to know Michael better this semester. (We shared our Game Design class last semester, but he’s quiet.)
Anyway, I took a walk up Broadway to let my mind reorganize.
And what’s going on on Broadway in SoHo? A six-story building is billowing smoke all over the place and emergency vehicles have blocked B’way and a small crowd of fightfighters and onlookers are lingering about, watching the activity above. The building is clearly off — no lights, no nothing. And soaked. And a bunch of windows have been shattered. And there are a couple of tall ladders poking up to a couple of these shattered windows. And the whole area smells oddly like… cinnamon. Do burning buildings smell like cinnamon? This one did…
So I watch this until I get bored and then walk back. And figure out an escape plan, since Michael still hasn’t returned.
But what’s funny is that now I’m the DJ guy in the eyes of the party, so I return and I’m immediately asked about turning the volume up on the music. Okay. And then asked to play more hip-hop (I guess Michael’s playlist had wandered into some lounge or latin dance or something). So I explain that I really don’t know what’s on Michael’s computer, but I’ll change the music. (Are iTunes and a mixer really so hard ot use?) So I put on some 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg and it seems to work. People seem to get into it.
Well, at least I figured out how to please the crowd. So all was not lost… But. I didn’t feel like mp3ing mainstream rap tracks for the next three hours, so I made my escape.
Ran into Michael as I was leaving and he was returning (the fire had bogged traffic). I explained about being tired and he thanked me and I took off and came home to watch television and play with my computer. Dozed off around 2am…
I'm Josh Knowles, a technology developer/consultant on a variety of mobile, social media, and gaming projects. I founded and lead Frescher-Southern, Ltd. I grew up in Austin, Texas and currently live in New York City.
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