Take That, Carpeted Stage! (Or: “Carpet: The Revenge”)
posted in performance on may 5th, 2009
Okay, I know that this post title probably doesn’t make much sense to most of you, but I promise that it will in short order. First, a little update: I mention (in the post below) that I had a show coming up for which I’ve been building a set with two new dancers (as Dani and Rachel are still lollygagging in Spain). That show was, in fact, today: it was an awards/recognition luncheon for VA Medical Center volunteers. And there were a lot of them—by the organizers’ count, about 400.
To put things briefly (though I know this is not my usual modus operandi): our set went well, the audience had a good time, and we went out for afternoon margaritas in triumph. But what’s this about carpet, you ask? Well, if you haven’t read the original "carpet post," the history is this: Zanbaka and I played a gig last year where, beforehand, we had been assured that the stage was wood, only to find out upon arriving that every square inch was covered in industrial-grade berber.
Armed with this experience, I now never book a gig before asking—usually two or three times—that the organizer verify that the stage is indeed made of wood and is indeed not carpeted. I suspect that this makes organizers wonder if I’ve got some sort of OCD issue (and have perchance forgotten to take my medication). After today, however, never again will I doubt the deep-seated and irrepressible villainy of carpet: the stage at the VA gig—yes, you guessed it: carpeted.
I want to make it clear, however, that I don’t think there was any maliciousness or subterfuge going on here; the organizer with whom I arranged this event was a paragon helpfulness and attention. I suspect simply that "the carpeted stage question" is just beyond the purview of the non-flamenco.
It’s the only conclusion I can come up with.
But you’ll notice (again, referring to my nebulous title), that this is not a tale of defeat. Despite multiple assurances that "yes, the stage is made of wood—get over it already, crazy-man," I decided to hedge our bets by bringing our portable dance floor with us—just in case. And happy about that we all were.
In fact, carpet aside (which, yes, I realize, is probably much more dramatic to me than it is to any of you), this gig was very much a "just in case" kind of gig—by which I mean that it went over well, I suspect, in large part because we were flexible.
And this wasn’t just in terms of the stage, either. I knew beforehand that there were going to be a lot of people in attendance. I also know that, particularly for large events, the unexpected is the only thing you can really count on. So we brought the stage. And we left ourselves twice as much travel time as we thought we needed (we ended up using about 3/4 of that—and the rest of the extra time was a boon when our sound check got hung up by outside logistics).
We also worked up more material than we needed for the hour long set for which we had been hired. My original thinking here was, "what if they ask for another song at the end of the set—we should have one!" As it turns out, speeches and announcements went late, which meant that we went on late—and consequently played a shorter set. It could have gone the other way (i.e. "can you all start early?"). In either case, it takes a lot of stress off knowing we’re covered either way.
I did do some "on the fly" rearranging of our set, however. A shorter show meant that we were better off keeping the energy up instead of mellowing out a bit in the middle and then finishing strong. I guess this is my whole point—and the point of the last post: I’m beginning to find that flexibility—in working with musicians and dancers, in making on the spot adjustments, in being the "accommodating link" (versus the "diva link")—all this is part and parcel of "working" as a musician. Perhaps the guitar and dance prodigys out there can demand that their every whim be met without exception, but this doesn’t sound to me like someone I’d hire again if I had an event to put on.
But then, I do have a lot to learn about this business, yet—perhaps I’m just being un-diva-ishly naïve!
And perhaps I should just stop whinging and go play. You too! Right now!