Dover Soul, Dover, NH. June 6, 2006
Dover Soul frequently has live music, but the audience treats it as background music. Over time I've been trying to bring the audience into the music by introducing some of the tunes, telling anecdotes about the composers, or, in the case of my own tunes, the stories behind the composition of the tune. I had prepared well for this gig, and was looking forward to the patter, as well as to the playing.
As I was setting up, a group trickled in, and settled on the couch and hassocks in front of me. One young woman commented, "We'll be right in front of the band!" I couldn't tell whether she thought this would be a good thing or not. As it turned out, it was a bad thing -- for me.
During the remainder of my set-up, the party in front of me had grown to a large, rather boisterous group, and by the middle of the first tune -- as usual, I opened with "Here's that Rainy Day" -- they were talking so loud that I decided, out of something like self-defense, to segue to "I Got It Bad," then "Satin Doll." Usually after the first tune I get applause, but the group in front of me were talking so loud they dominated the room. I went into "Baba Ghanosh," thinking that something funky and rhythmic might catch their attention and quiet them down a bit. They weren't having any of it, and my first set turned into a sonic back prop to their talk and laughter. I found myself thinking, "If they knew they were here to talk - yell, actually -- why didn't they take the couches in the back room, which they would have had all to themselves?"
Near the end of the first set, pianist/drummer Craig Finney came in. Craig and I had never met, but earlier that day we had talked on the phone about an upcoming gig, and I had mentioned that I was playing at Dover Soul. Craig had said he'd be in the area and would drop by. As he walked in and sat at the bar a few seats from Mal, I was playing "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" loud and hard, because that was the only way to play over the revelers. During that same tune the noisy folks left. Between tunes Craig leaned down the bar and introduced himself. I played one more tune, softly in fact, and took a break.
On the break Mal and I chatted with Craig. Soon he had to leave, and I went up and did my second set. That set was pretty uneventful, except for one thing. As I was playing "My Funny Valentine," a couple of guys who had been sitting on a couch further down he room got up to leave. One of them caught my eye and said, "That's my favorite tune. Nice job!" So someone was listening.