Last night. The whole audience sat rapt, the world-outside the record store didn’t matter in those exploded and expanded moments and that’s all just hitting me this morning.
An attentive audience. We definitely had one, last night, for an evening showcasing spoken word artistry from members of the Detroit music community whom I’d invited together for a little in-store reading/recital-experiment). Thinking back on the night, how quiet it was save for the spoken-delivery of one …The audience’s reception: how crucial is that, or how much does it weigh upon whether an artist wakes up the morning after performing with a feeling of fulfillment?
It’s one thing to have a bunch of scruffy guitarists and singers unplugged from the feedback-furled security blankets of their amps and microphones and have them reading some essays, dark and droll, profound and provocative, to a gathered crowd perched on folding chairs. That kind of scenario seems (more often than not) sutures shut the gabby lips and whisperings-of-the-where-you-going-after-this-… People listen.
It’s quite another to be at a dance show. If I’m reading to you I want to see your eyes forward and your mouth shut.
But a dance show… If I’m discharging a cascade of synth-loops over busting beats from my Roland 808, if I’m glamorizing my vocals into glittery distortion with vocoded effects and if I’m reaching back, half-frantic but still all-in-the-groove, toward the third table on my stage set-up adjacent my laptop so that my index and middle fingers can jitter the next melodic riff on my microKorg…then the last thing I want to see is your eyes. I want to see your eyes closed, in fact, and your head not forward at all but more a swivel. Hopefully your hands are not by your side, maybe they’re swaying (maybe they’re spilling someone else’s drink) but there better be some movement, any movement, keep your hands in your pockets if it pleases you but maybe move your hips, lift your feet… show some life…
And so we have an interesting evening of decidedly danceable electro-pop coming up this weekend, in Grand Rapids at Founders. My little show was a spoken-word thing and its likely listeners there keyed-in instantly that this was sort of a silence-your-cell-phones type affair. So they sat and listened. But with Grand Rapids-based Alexis and Detroit-area’s Phantasmagoria and Tunde Olaniran together up on stage, for one night, surely the beats will be both ebullient and prevalent.
Doesn’t matter if said-beats have a fabricated-sounding fuzzed echo; we’re still inclined, with some primal sense, to shake our stuff to the coaxing trundle of the drum…
Whether pitches are shifted, click tracks clattering or synthesized strings misting their robotic purr, the beat will bump along at a cadence comparable to the spill of the words from the speakers at that quiet but forceful night inside the record store. We react to these different kinds of rhythms in different ways, whether keying in on each word or subsequently losing ourselves in the storm of sequenced beats…
The way one would be sure of a failed performance would be if both respective reactions described were switched in scenario:
dancing like last-call disco to my shitty poetry or perhaps sitting half-breathless in entranced, ear-bent gaze towards an undulating balladeer stutter stepping to the edge of the stage with a dulcet-tone belt over bombastic beats.
My point – audiences are fickle, amorphous entities – it’s enthusing when they behave accordingly – whether the artist needs that or not, is a whole other question and a whole other essay…
1/26/13 – Founders Tap Room in Grand Rapids –features:
Alexis / Phantasmagoria / Tunde Olaniran – -and DJ Guest Spots from AB!