Ravenna Flamenco

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Kristos Round IV: A Preshow Beverages Update

posted in performance on november 18th, 2009

That’s right, the Zamani Flamenco autumnal hiatus has officially come to a close: this last weekend found us back at our regular performance spot—Kristos Eastlake in Seattle.

Though the venue was familiar to us, night was new: instead of Sunday evening as we had been doing, the show this time around was on a Saturday. This had a couple of implications for us: first is that most people didn’t have to be up early (and sober) for "the man" the following day—which meant that we could start (and go) a bit later. The second implication is that whereas on Sundays most of the folks at the show have been people who had come explicitly to see us, for the Saturday show there was also a healthy mix of Kristos regulars and random weekend revelers. Which meant that we got to reach out to (and see the reactions of) folks who had no idea what they were in for.

All of which, finally, turned out to be full of pleasant surprises. An example: Kristos has a loft dining area that looks out over the main restaurant (and our performance space) below. A group of about twenty had reserved this space for their own event, not connected to our show. It didn’t look to me like they were there to practice transcendental meditation or anything, so even if they weren’t interested in what was going on below, I didn’t imagine they would be at all bothered. This was my line of thinking. It was quite a nice surprise, then, to look up toward the loft during the second or third song of the set and see them all lined up along the railing looking on and then cheering when we were done. New flamenco converts? Well, that I don’t know—but I am pretty sure they were pleasantly surprised and enjoying the show.

But wait, you ask—what about the "beverages" mention in the title … and what on earth is that monstrosity pictured above? I’ll answer the second question first: that is a picture of what is easily the most brilliant espresso machine design to date: the Saeco Etienne Luis. I hear it makes mediocre espresso and that you could probably by an Archdukeship in Latvia for what it costs, but still … just look at it!

Okay, great, you say, but what does this have to do with flamenco? Which brings us back to the first question: beverages. As some of you (i.e. those of you who read this blog semi-regularly) know, I’ve been experimenting with the calming/debilitating effects of various beverages before a performance: The whiskey flask, in general, lives in my guitar case. I’ve also tried the odd glass of wine or a pint of dark liquid goodness before a show. There seems to be strong anecdotal evidence here (real or imagined) for some mild calming effect. If nothing else, these things provide a tasty and welcome diversion.

I have noticed, however, that when I practice at home in the morning over coffee my dexterity, attack, and speed tend to hit a peak right around my third cup. So what about coffee? (Hence the glorious spiky espresso sphere above, natch.) The risk of this, of course, is widespread caffeine-fueled peripheral nervous system revolt—which on some levels might sound wildly imprudent. The final result on the night of the show? It was actually pretty mild: my fingers felt strong and coordinated, and, while perhaps a bit cold (which is pretty much always the case), they were definitely not "stupid."

As for definitive conclusions of this scientifically rigorous inquiry into the influence of pre-show adult beverages? Honestly (as a scientist), I’ve got to say that the decrease in nervous system rebellion is probably more attributable to the cumulative experience of performing than it is to my consumption habits. I’m sure there are things that can mess one up before a show (i.e. 5 minutes to curtain is probably not a good time to experiment with Spicy Chicken Vindaloo), but as for sure-fire calmers? Though I can’t help but be tempted by the possibilities of an "Irish-Coffee-Car-Bomb," for the moment a skeptic I remain.

Now you, good scientist: go play!


tags: caffeine, kristos, practice
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