The city of Brea recently refurbed a street in the old section, turning it into an entertainment and shopping district called “Brea Downtown”. There’s two big Edwards theaters, and a lot of ginchy shops and little groovy restaurants. It’s still a real street, and there’s a wide corner area with a strange fountain where they let bands play. We sent in a CD back in the summer, but never heard back. When Warren pinged her on Nov 7, she said that she had the 9th open! Awful short notice, but we jumped at the chance, even though we were already booked at Borders Tustin that night.
We’ve never played out on the street before — and it’s a little strange that we were so excited to do so, considering that most street bands would love a chance to play *indoors*, at, say, a Borders coffeeshop. But we’re in it for the experience, and we were thrilled to get a non-Borders gig, regardless of where.
It was a blast! Of course, it was noisy, and it’s always hard to “fill” an open space. Warren had a lot of trouble at the beginning just getting some kind of sound out of his guitar that sounded like what he expected. But we had lots of people strolling by, and that’s always fun. I was really intimidated at first (fear of the unknown, I suppose), but I felt right at home after just a little while.
At first, we had lots of little kids, and because they were outside and on the sidewalk, they were completely uninhibited about dancing up a storm. That was fun for all of us, and their parents tended to hand them a dollar to put in the open guitar case we had on the ground (traditional!). I noticed that a lot of the kids thought that throwing money in a case was pretty fun, so they went back to dad for more, again and again. For some of them it was almost like feeding a meter.
Later, of course, we had more grown-ups, and a lot of them threw a buck in, too. People would walk by and drop a buck in the case, without even slowing down! They only heard half a verse, but put a buck in anyway! We ended up making $50 in tips. Not a record, but way up there, and not bad for a cold night in November.
It was interesting, though, because the audience dynamic is so different. At Borders, we have people who were there when we got there, and still there when we’re leaving. Here, almost nobody was there more than 10 minutes, and most were there for less than one whole song. We could probably have gotten away with only knowing 3 songs (though that’d been pretty boring for us). I was anticipating having to really step up my “talking game”, but it turned out that I needed even *less* “patter”, since there really wasn’t anyone there between songs — there was hardly anyone to bother to introduce the songs *to*. Took a bit of the pressure off.
It also made it so we could repeat songs, when requested, since the audience was in constant turn-over. We did “House at Pooh Corner” three times. And when people would notice the song sheets, they’d usually ask for one, and be gone. If the next guy asked for the same song, no problem.
Artistically, it was a disaster. The mix was terrible. Although I didn’t mess with the relative volumes from the settings that seem to work at Borders, it was pretty vocal-heavy. It was hard for my guitar’s microphone-pickup to “hear” cleanly enough for the tuner, so it was hard to tune, and hard to stay in tune with the cold and damp seeping in. My hands got pretty cold, which makes them a bit stiff — I can still play OK, but I tend to reach for something and the stiffness makes me get there a little late, or not quite get there at all, meaning missed strings, and missed notes. Not that anyone could hear them anyway…
It’s a lot more distracting than Borders, too. At Borders, when I look up from my book to do the audience-contact thing, usually there’s nobody even looking back at me — they’re all involved in their books. Here, people walking by have nothing else to look at, so they look at us. (Unless they’re studiously *refusing* to look…) But when I looked up at this gig, there were all kinds of people, and cars, and kids, and dogs, and cops, and pretty girls, and teenagers dancing (!?!), and a firetruck — it’s distracting! Hard to keep my place and keep the song intact. I’m not used to there being so much variety and motion “out there”.
Daleen and Acacia came by and got some pictures (above, and more at: http://www.tabblo.com/studio/stories/view/480787/) and video. None of it turned out very well, the sound was bad, and the video was stymied by the bright backlight from the store behind us. Daleen had brought the dogs, too, and seemed to have fun chatting with the inevitable dog lovers that came by — so at least she wasn’t as bored as usual.
Acacia took most of the video, and did a bit too much zooming in and out, ‘cuz that’s fun. She also sang along with the songs that she knows (like “House at Pooh Corner” and even “South of the Border” a little), which would be upsetting if it wasn’t so darn cute.
Anyway, best gig in a long time — not in terms of good music, but in terms of having fun ourselves, and passing some along to lots of happy friendly people.
There’s no more openings until January (when it’ll be even colder!), but the manager, failing to hear any feedback (which she claims is a good thing since people only call to complain), has invited us to play at their Tuesday afternoon and evening “Farmer’s Markets”, which, by the pictures on the website, looks to be just this side of a Church Bazaar — mostly “crafters” along with the locally grown fruit. But we’ll happily give it a try, just for the variety!