Playing shows as a performing musician is an interesting experience, to say the least. It may seem, theoretically, as simple as driving to a place, playing a bunch of songs, and going home afterwards. I remember learning quickly that that was not the case as a high school pianist - hearing that a venue has a piano (usually "recently tuned!") is never comforting, as a lot of venues offer pianos that pre-date the Van Buren administration and are missing important keys.
Obviously, The Jolly Beggars don't run into that issue, but playing different venues every night presents different issues every time. Some venues are simple set-ups but the staff or bookers don't understand why music is important to their venue and treat their performing musicians as such. Some nights, we play for nice people who have no stage, no equipment, no crowd, and no reason to come back beyond "that guy was nice."
Last night, we pulled up to O'Shea's Olde Inne in West Dennis, MA, after a beautiful day of swimming, walking, and enjoying the Cape. We parked our cars and were greeted by a guy in a huge beard, driving his old pickup truck out of the lot. He greeted us enthusiastically, told us that he expected a great crowd, talked to us about the venue, and let us know that we'd be having a great night no matter what happened.
He hit the nail on the head. The room at O'Shea's was an absolute privilege to play in - it's a wooden restaurant with a short ceiling, but the sound in that room couldn't be beat. Rooms like that are like playing freshly-tuned, well-maintained 100 year old Steinways - they basically play themselves, and the performers just get to enjoy it.
We played from 7-8:30 and had a wonderfully receptive crowd that ended up insisting that we play a quick set during their open mic before we left. O'Shea's offers a crowd that enjoys our type of music on an entirely different level than a lot of our shows, being along the shore and largely of Irish origin.
The bearded man who greeted us in the parking lot was Joe O'Shea, and he is one of those venue owners that makes being a performing musician a joy. He made sure we had everything we needed all night, chatted with us down the restaurant, and then invited us up to the lounge above the kitchen and talked to us about all of the old jazz musicians he saw live when he was younger (Ahmad Jamal on his first date with a girl in the 1960's, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, etc.).
One of the comments we often receive from older listeners is that they are overjoyed that young people are still performing traditional music and having fun doing it. We appreciate that, and we're probably just as overjoyed to talk to folks who actually lived the tradition and the stories that we would have loved to experience ourselves.
Joe O'Shea, the bar crew and the waitstaff at O'Shea's treated us to one of the most fun shows we've played as a band. They treated us not as one-time entertainment who only need to be tended to so they know we're only taking one drink each on the house. They treated us like friends that they expect to come back and hang out really soon - and we sincerely hope we can come back soon!
But we have to finish our summer tour first. We'll be driving up to the Lobster Cooker in Freeport, ME for a two night stay.