Survival of the Fittest

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

              “This is how we

do it,” sang Montell Jordan in 1995, and I took those words in stride as I had another Jongleurs gig that had all the earmarks of disaster, but the emcee, showcase act, and I all said “No Way!”  It wouldn’t have been quite as ominous if the first half of the show hadn’t been so disastrous, but at the interval, seeing a big hole to dig out of, the emcee Miles Crawford kept saying “The show starts now!” 

                   So what the hell happened? OK, with Jongleurs in Portsmouth, there are a few obstacles to deal with, the main one being no complete insulation from the disco in the next room, with only a curtain providing a barrier. Audiences are easily distracted, but I’ve worked this room a few times before, and the crowd tends to go the extra mile since they’ve paid to be entertained. That’s a blessing, since the club’s over-echoing sound system, coupled with the high ceilings, sometimes sends jokes into the great beyond, and not always at the intended audience members. You’re dealt the hand, now play it.


                   Opening the show were two acts I’d never worked with before, let’s call them “Clive” and “Ian” since they’re still sorting it out and most likely have the goal of doing this full time. Clive got the news earlier in the day that his girlfriend had decided to break it off after six years together. It reminded me of the pain and suffering I went through two years ago when the same thing was thrust upon me. Granted, I had a week to ponder my fate before actually having to go on stage again and pretend everything is hunky-dory, but we often tend to work better out of turmoil. Clive had only experienced a few hours of total heartbreak, so I can empathize up to a point. Ultimately, you still have to get up there and do what you do. He didn’t. Though he didn’t burst into tears or anything equally dramatic, it was still clear that his mind wasn’t where it should have been. There were a few peaks, but some very prominent valleys, and things got very uncomfortable, especially when he did material about his now ex-girlfriend that he clearly hadn’t figured out how to update.


                   Clive’s disjointed set got polite applause, then it was Ian’s turn. Ian had no crisis in his personal life to beat himself up over, and was actually doing a decent job until he got stroppy (my American spell-check questioned me on that very British word) with a hen party at the front table that he thought was talking too loud. After a few insulting comments to them, he incurred the wrath of another table, and tried the “What do you do for a living? Oh that’s a shit job” ploy, and bring on the chirping crickets. I turned to the showcase act and said “What the fuck is he DOING?” It’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen someone shoot themselves in the foot, but this was clearly a case of self-sabotage. The key here is if you’re going to insult an individual, make sure the rest of the crowd is on your side. Ian judged it wrong, and had to swim upstream for his remaining 10 minutes.  


                    So now we’ve got a crowd that’s thinking they’ve been totally burned, having seen two pathetic acts in a row. It was time to re-assess. We needed to focus on taking up as much of the slack as possible and making the crowd feel they got their money’s worth. Sometimes showcase acts are the worst thing to put on in those circumstances, but this guy Tucker (real name), who was either Aussie or Kiwi, (and I could be wrong on both guesses) had 20 years experience, so I relaxed a bit, knowing the chore of saving the show wasn’t going to rest totally on MY shoulders. Tucker was awesome, I really don’t think I’d ever seen a showcaser do quite so well. When he came off after storming it, I said to him, “Oh fuck, now I’m gonna have to really work!”  


                       That turned out to be the tonic, as the show was running late, and I only was going to be able to do 20 minutes at the most. I worked off of Tucker’s energy, and rocked and rolled with as much frenzy as this 60-year-old body would allow. I’m not going to pat myself on the back too much, as much as to say Clive and Ian dug the hole, Miles and Tucker dug back out of it, and it was then up to me to carry the baton the rest of the way, and yes the metaphors don’t quite match, but it’s the best we can do at 1 AM. Suffice to say I held up my end.


                          I’m just happy to see that I still have the kind of energy that I can call up when the situation warrants it. I’m also happy that I only have to do that on a few odd occasions. And I truly hope Clive and Ian sort their stuff out, because both showed potential amidst their self-generated turmoil. All I know is my ego was heavily stroked tonight, and that plus the paycheck will make me sleep well.  









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