Singer vs. Crowd

The deck is open.  We eat outside because Cape Ann Brew Pub is full inside.  People had come to hear Chelsea Berry and her friends and to support Boston Strong.  

After dinner, there’s room to stand inside to see the music.  It’s a relaxed, fun, lively atmosphere.  But it’s loud.  People are talking over the music.  You’ve been there right?  The band turns up.  The crowd talks louder.  It begins to feel like a contest.  Most musicians hate this.  They’d rather be playing to a listening crowd.  

Chelsea sings her song, “Blues House”, which is about this very problem.  From the back, it’s hard to hear her over the crowd.  But it’s too loud in there to carry on a conversation either.  I’ve always puzzled about this singer vs. crowd phenomenon.

Then something magical happens.  Chelsea sings her signature a cappella song, “King of Rome” and does something unexpected.  She leaves the mic.  Chelsea’s powerful voice is still heard over the din.  And the sheer power of her presence and performance begins to quiet the crowd.  Finally all you can hear is Chelsea’s soaring song about Charlie and his racing pigeon accompanied by the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen as if it were an off-stage percussion section.

Singer vs. crowd.  Singer wins.  But so does the crowd.  Live music takes you to a place you simply cannot experience any other way.

BTW: This is the 100th anniversary of the 1001 mile race from Rome to England that Charlie Hudson’s racing pigeon, The King of Rome, won in 1913.

5 comments

  • As a musician who used to play with a minimalist, mostly slo-core band (with occasional bursts of energy–think VU), it was always a challenge to be heard above the crowd. And going to shows this can also be frustrating (I originally come from Dallas–our chatty crowds are infamous). I don’t think anyone expects a church-like silence in a bar, but at least a little respect for the musician is helpful. Great post. Cheers!

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  • Vickie & Peter

    Thanks for the kind words. Do you really think Dallas crowds are more “chatty” than Boston or NYC? Reminds me of something John Adams complained about when he first went to NY in the 1760s, saying New Yorkers talk “too fast, too loud and all at once.” I grew up in NY. He’s right.

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  • chris langathianos

    Great, post. There are those moments when people realize it’s okay to listen.

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  • I’ve had many “singers” ruin my dinner because it impacted our ability to hear our conversation. I always feel the singer is a guest of the diners in a restaurant. The diners are paying to eat there, so they can chat if they want. Even loudly. If the music is really good, they’ll earn the people’s ear.

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    • Vickie & Peter

      You raise an interesting issue, Bill, that points to a difficulty distinguishing between a restaurant with background music (at which the musician is guest) and a concert in a restaurant (at which the patron is a guest). Clearly nobody wants to ruin your experience when you’re trying to have a night out. One of the interesting things about Gloucester and Cape Ann is that nearly all the music venues are also restaurants, so it’s not always clear whether a given event is a concert or not. This one was. It was billed as such. I’ve been to many venues where food and drink are served while people are listening to music they specifically came to hear. To me that’s the best of both worlds — restaurant and concert. — Peter.

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