I have so many photos from the last week or so to develop and show to you, I’m feeling really guilty about being so behind. However, I’m so full of feeling right now I am going to write from the heart. About tonight.
Tonight Brian and I performed at Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine. Now, this restaurant is home to me in more than one way. My dearest friend in the world, Altu, owns the restaurant and that is how we met. But for The Fabulous Heftones, it is also our musical home base.
When we were still developing ourselves as an act, early in the game, we played Altu’s and we had to have 2 hours worth of material in one evening. The first time we played there we had to repeat a few songs at the end of the night. Now, we can easily play for over 3 hours and not repeat a single song (and most of our songs are less than 3 minutes long). Some songs we know better than others, but all are entertaining.
Tonight, there were two dozen people in that audience who we knew, who came just because we were performing. In a restaurant that has a maximum (jam-packed, standing room) capacity of 50, this is a bustling and wonderful number of folks to entertain. There were a handful of unfamiliar diners as well, but for the most part it was a sort of Heftone gathering.
The first fans of the night were Lori and Brenda, with their daughters Ashley and (oh drat, we hadn’t met before and I’m going blank on her name). They are great to sing to, with big smiles and enthusiasm that makes it across the room. Thanks, sooooo much, you guys! There’s nothing like starting the night knowing you have friends in the audience.
My mom brought in 10 people in tonight. My mom ROCKS. Mind you, she’s retired now for more than 10 years… with many friends in her age group, who did not grow up on Ethiopian food. Mom has friends who are willing to try something unusual. One of Mom’s friends, Barb (who has been to Altus for our shows many times now), brought another friend who had not been there before. That friend was from Senegal. I wish I could remember her name but we did have a nice conversation for a short while
Also included in Mom’s party: she ran into the Andersons somewhere this week and told them about the show. They came (they are the most loyal audience members of anything artful in East Lansing, of all) and brought three friends.
And then I must mention our youngest fan. We first met at Aladdin’s restaurant when I danced there one night. She loved my sparkly dress so much she followed me around the restaurant, entranced by the glitter (follow link and look for child in pink dress).
I chatted with her mom after the dance show was over and somehow they learned that Brian and I sing. So now she has our CD, Moon June Spoon, and she told a bunch of adults in her life that they needed to come to Altus and hear us sing. This one youngster brought in 8 people to the concert (including herself). I can not tell you how touched I am by that.
And then Susan Luks walked in. I was so delighted she could make it! I know how busy she is and she lives far enough away that this was a big choice to go out and hear us. Then Regina came in, and there was almost nowhere to sit so I made sure they remembered they’d met at the recent party where I’d seen Susan, and they had a nice talk discovering a handful of people they both know.
And Ken came in! Ken Knott (of the former Lansing punk band The Monokulators) has really been supportive of our totally un-punk act for several years now. We have not seen him in a while and it was great to see him there. (Read the April 16, 2003 article in City Pulse about Ken’s birthday show where we opened for 4 punk bands at Mac’s Bar. We (The Fabulous Heftones) were listed that week in one publication as a punk band, which still makes me chuckle.) Kenny is known for many costume changes (an artform in itself) while he and his band perform.
There were a few young musicians there… we met them at a 4th of July party this year. I recognized the young man and figured he was a music person somehow but Brian had to tell me where we had met before.
And there was a table whose faces were familiar. They left before our break so we did not chat but they took our postcard with our schedule on it, when they waved goodbye on the way out of the restaurant.
On the way home I heard Jackson Browne’s cut “The Load Out/Stay” which talks about how important the audience is to a performance. Here are bits of the lyrics:
Tonight the people were so fine,
they waited there in line.
And when they got up on their feet,
they made the show.
And that was sweet…
…People, you’ve got the power over what we do.
You can sit there and wait,
or you can pull us through.
Come along, sing the song.
You know that you can’t go wrong…
I am nobody next to Jackson Browne. I’m just a Lansing grrl who sings and plays a funny-looking bass banjo called a Heftone. Who is married to a really great ukulele player. Who is a relatively big fish (in the tiny “pond” sometimes called the American ukulele circuit) a few weekends a year at Ukulele festivals. Who mostly plays to audiences that are small and intimate, and whose name is known by nobody in another state or who listens to standard radio/television.
But I’m a performer and I, too, feel an essential connection to my audience. I need them or it’s not a show. I work really hard to get the word out, so that those who have the time and are inclined to do it, might consider coming out when we sing.
I know that sometimes putting the feet up on the couch is more important than anything else one can do. I know that tonight was the MSU/Notre Dame game, and the game started at 8pm (our concert was 6:30-8:30). I know that it is a rainy fall day and personally I’d stay home on a night like this if given a chance.
That makes it even more sweet to know that we had a couple of dozen people in that restaurant who came just because we were there. It was really good for Altu’s business. It was good for my heart, both in feeling cherished and in being able to be on stage.
And it was good for the people who came, who sang along, who made requests, who danced standing or sitting, alone if need be. Who signed up for our email list, who bought CDs or did not, who left tips or did not. It was wonderful, exactly the way it was.
Thank you to all who were part of that wonderful experience. I know that at least four of you read this blog regularly. I appreciate you, deeply.
It was not that long ago when I was a sad, sad young woman with no hope. My life has transformed as completely as Cinderella’s, but in a much more real and wonderful way. I am amazed. Thanks for joining me in my journey.
And thanks to Fred Beckett for taking these photographs. Fred is always a good sport when we ask him to be impromptu photographer.
Photos: Brian and I (wearing African clothing, my dress from Ethiopia which was specially made for me and gifted to me by Altu’s family; and Brian wearing a shirt I got him in Nairobi in December 2004), the restaurant teeming with friends and family, me showing how happy I really am, playing bass and singing.