We played the relatively-new “Family Farm” section of the Santa Ana Zoo, for its 56th Birthday Weekend. There’s a nice stage back there, between the chicken coop and the goats, and they even put out some chairs to make a little “audience” for us. Assuming people came and sat in ’em, of course.
It’s kind of hidden back in the corner, and we were dreading either no traffic at all, or people we wouldn’t know how to play for. But it turned out to be almost entirely young families with infant to about 7-year-old kids. Kids that young usually don’t actually know any particular songs (I’ve had that experience before, with the Indian Princesses), but they can sometimes be fascinated by guys-with-guitars anyway, so it can still work.
We had one little boy whose dad kept dragging him away, but would show up again a few minutes later. We had small families with parents glad for the chance to sit a while. And we had a few teen volunteers who thought that we weren’t half-bad, and asked for a song or two.
What we *didn’t* have was 5th grade tough boys asking for ACDC or “Smoke On the Water” to pump up their macho cred. We were half-prepared for that (‘cuz we see that a lot when we play at elementary schools), but fortunately we didn’t have to deliver.
We played about half kids songs, and half up-tempo rock or country-rock. We started right when the zoo opened so we didn’t have much traffic right at first, but it got better as time went on. We play the grown-up songs when there was nobody sitting down so folks were just wandering by, but then when some kids would sit down, I’d play something for them, to see how long I could keep ’em.
One set of parents set their little 2-year-old boy down and kind of danced around next to him, clearly encouraging him to dance, too. But he just stood there, frozen solid, entranced, but immobile. I quickly switched to the “How can you *not* dance” classic, “Twist and Shout”, but he just stood and stared, a statue of a boy. It was funny ‘cuz his parents were so convinced…
The management seems to have liked us, too, and wants to put us “up front” next time — an area right at the entrance and exit that was occupied by the model railroaders for the birthday bash. That will be a better place to play, no doubt, ‘cuz everybody comes through there, twice, and the concession stand with its picnic tables form a captive audience.
There’s a little electric train that carries 15 or twenty passengers around the place, and it could come by directly behind the stage we were on, every 3 or 4 songs. It was fun, ‘cuz suddenly an audience would appear behind me, but briefly, and I was always in the middle of a song. So I’d spin around and sing and smile at the train people, but it was tricky ‘cuz I was suddenly without my chords and words book. But I apparently know those songs better than I think I do, ‘cuz I never messed up while the train was there — though I screwed up plenty of times while I was staring right at the book.
So, despite the wind, we had a pretty good time, so I guess we’ll be back there for “more fun” a time or three. But Warren’s not too fond of playing kids songs, so it may end up to be me, solo, pretty quick. We didn’t put a tip jar or guitar case out this time (the money would’a blown away anyway), but Warren asked technician Steve about it afterwards and he said it’s totally OK. And, out front, where there’s lots of what Steve calls “stroller moms”, it may turn out to be lucrative.