Last night, the missus and I went to a concert. A jazz concert, specifically. And a jazz trio, to nail it down rather on-the-nosely.
It was a good show — the music was lively and uptempo, which I like. The drummer was relentless. The pianist was frenetic and animated, which was entertaining. And the bassist was a master of making those oddly expressive faces that you only see in people who are making music, making love, or in the middle of a cardiac emergency.
At one point, I’m pretty sure this guy was doing all three.
“And the bassist was a master of making those oddly expressive faces that you only see in people who are making music, making love, or in the middle of a cardiac emergency.”
There was just one problem with the evening: the seats. Not because we couldn’t see, or because the seats were too far back, or uncomfortable or stained by whatever various juices the bass player might have been producing. No. The issue with the seats was that they were the best seats in the house.
This may seem like a good thing. For most people, it probably would be. But this is me. So, not so much.
The seats in question were huddled around a small table mere inches from the stage. I was on the left end, dead center stage, staring down the barrel of the bassist doing his Plasticman face contortions. To my left was the piano, and to my right the drum kit. If I’d ordered a drink with a straw, I could have leaned forward and banged the high hat. If it were a bendy straw, I might have reached the cowbell. We were that close.
For the first few minutes, it did seem like a good thing. No heads in the way, no waitresses ducking in and out of view, no watching from the shadowy recesses of the room like some stalker ducking some kind of jazzy restraining order. We were front and center. The point people for the audience. Fan table numero uno.
It seemed like a good thing to be, for a while. Then, during a frenzied nimble-fingered riff in the middle of the first number, the pianist swung her head and turned in our direction.
And looked right at me.
Okay, possibly she wasn’t looking at me, in particular. She was pretty animated over there, squirming and gyrating around on her stool, so maybe it was just an Exorcist sort of moment, when her neck whipped around of its own accord. But it seemed pretty intentional. And maybe she was looking at someone else — but I didn’t see any flash of recognition, or a search for some familiar face. I think she was just looking out to see how the audience was enjoying things.
Specifically, how the closest audience member was enjoying things. To get a feel for the room, using the most convenient nearby face as a proxy for the dozens of other patrons behind. Reading the reaction of the guy with the best seat in the house.
The awful nature of these seats — and in particular, mine — suddenly dawned on me. The pressure. The expectations. I was no longer an audience member, anonymously swilling beer and tapping my toe whitely in somewhat-rhythm. No. I was now a liaison, a messenger, the very conduit between the performers onstage and the fans in the seats, communicating appreciation from the throng behind me for these master musical magicians to see.
With great seats, you see, comes great responsibility.
So I immediately did the very first thing that anyone would do in that situation, with a pair of expectant virtuoso pianist’s eyes locked onto one’s gaze. Once I verified that my fly was indeed up, I sorted out my next move.
Let me be clear: the band was great. The drummer was nimble and smooth, funny-face guy laid a mean bass line, and piano girl was a whirlwind of fingers and hair and one-two-hundred-and-fifty-sixth notes, flinging barrages of sound in dizzying waves.
They were amazing — but I had a job to do. Soon enough, the pianist looked over again, and it was up to me — I was sure of it now — to send her a message from the room. To convey admiration and awe, respect and encouragement, to tell her that we all see what she just did there, and it was as clever and catchy as she already knew it was. As Audience Member #1, I had to get all that across, somehow, in the blink of an eye.
In retrospect, taking my shirt off and throwing it onstage was maybe not the right move. A little too on-the-nose, perhaps. Not as nuanced as I might have liked. What can I tell you? Some people crack under pressure; I shatter like a plate-glass window.
Still, I think I got the message across. The piano player didn’t feel the need to look in my direction for the entire rest of the set. Neither did the bassist, come to think of it. Or the drummer. Or my wife. Clearly, my ability to ‘speak for the masses’ is impeccable.
And the rest of the show was just as amazing. A little drafty, if I’m honest. But amazing, just the same. And now I know just what to do, the next time I luck into sitting in the best seat in the house.
Maybe I’ll see if we can get front-row tickets to the next Boston Philharmonic concert. Somebody needs to show those guys a little pasty-white upper-body love. It might as well be me.Permalink | No Comments