During the fourth and final installment of my Tales of Christmas Present, I will review our final two weeks of the Christmas Coffeehouse Tour '08, including a singer, bass player, smoker, shouter, an artist, two wheelchairs, and Santa Claus.
Our home base, the Old Louisville Coffeehouse, hosted us for the weekend of December 12th and 13th. As a last minute arrangement, we were called by Fishnet Ministries to fill an opening spot on Friday. We opened for a singer/picker named Jennifer. Apparently, we were both informed that we would be the opening act. Jeff of Fishnet cleared it up and put us first (since we were the main act the following night). Since all of her friends were already there at 7:00, we decided that she could sing some tunes with us. This combination won the crowd. We had a running mate with a fan base (something we never had).
That Friday night presented us with the most performer-audience energy exchange of the entire tour. Not only did the crowd love us, but one of Jennifer's friends got some great video on our camera and bought a CD at the end of the night!
Saturday was an average night at Old Lou. The crowd was quite small and the audience was not interested in a high-energy show. Some special guests were my father, brother-in-law, and a couple of families that specifically check with the Old Lou to see when we're performing next. They want to have us there for the second Saturday of each month, although I am still deciding how much I want to commit to that.
We gave away some CDs that to some interesting characters. The first was a kid that lives across the street, sent by his parents for a hot coffee. On his way out the door, he asked if he could touch my guitar. He acted like my 24-year-old guitar was made of pure gold. He even said wow in a very soft tone. After I handed him the CD, he ran across the street with a shout of great joy: Woo Hoo! I gave the next CD to a passer-by that stepped into the coffeehouse to ask me for a light. When he asked for a light, I handed him a CD and told him it is the best I can do. This was cool, because he was carrying a CD walkman. We stopped playing 30 minutes early, because the crowd had diminished and we were tired of playing for ourselves.
We had high hopes for Sunday. We planned on playing a very busy Christmas party at Your Daily Grind in Scottsburg, IN. We had two carloads of people and equipment. It was a lot of work, but we expected a healthy turnout. When I pulled up to the front door, I was greeted by the owner, Mark Coffey. He asked me if we had the dates mixed up. Never assume. I just read the word Sunday on his flyer. Next time, I will also read the exact date, Dec 21st not 14th. Not too far out of the way, since we still had the car loaded from the previous night. Stuff happens.
After a week of auditing our schedule and advertising for musicians, we were off to the Java Brewing Company on Frankfort Avenue. The Friday crowd was diverted by some last minute Christmas shopping, but we were privileged by the presence of a bass player. Brian answered an ad on Louisville Craigslist. The information highway is so much more convenient that it's predecessor -- the music store bulletin board. I used to place a hand-written sheet of paper on the bulletin boards in order to find musicians. It actually worked well, but not as good as the Internet. The ad stated that we were looking for a bass player and singer for the weekend, but they needed to email me to find out who I am and what my music sounded like.
We received several responses. One was from the singer of a local southern rock band and one from a very alternative bass player. Brian was not only the best fit, but he also had another motive. His band had already tapped into my Internet profile and had plans to contact me about joining them. As he sat in on my performance, he was also auditioning me for his band. Of course, I was aware of this. The highlight of the night was an artist that was creating beautiful free drawings for many of the customers in the shop. He drew a couple of horses for my daughter, Ruby. That guy should be working for a major advertising agency. Maybe he is?
We spent Saturday night at Ray's Monkey House. Just like Friday, the audience was sparse. Randy, my brother-in-law, made it out to this gig. He is temporarily in a wheelchair, due to a recent auto accident, but that made another member of our audience feel more comfortable. The wheelchair ramp to the second floor makes Ray's a more attractive location for the physically challenged. The most exciting thing about the night was the large groups of people outside migrating north on Bardstown Road and shouting at the top of their lungs, though it did make loading our instruments into the car a little scary.
Sunday was final show of the tour at Your Daily Grind. It was the Christmas party we thought we were headed to last week. The turnout was amazing, and the tips were huge. Mark Coffey has two obvious secrets of his success: he is the nicest guy on earth, and he makes the best turtle mocha in the universe. I think he uses ice cream instead of whipped cream. Delicious. We alternated 30 minute sets with Julia (a storyteller). It was a pleasant exchange that kept the audience's full attention. This was the only show on the tour that I was sure that the audience was there to see and hear the music. They clapped every time. We moved several CDs, and I gave Mark the remaining five. At four o'clock, he was actually pushing the customers out of the door. They would have stayed all night, but I couldn't.
With no time to spare, I had to drop off Philip, pick up my wife and head to Lakeside Baptist Church to audition for Brian's band (the bass player from Java). Looks like I got the gig. I look forward to weaning myself from the responsibilities of self-promotion, so I can focus on playing my guitar!
The Bottom Line: Instead of whipped cream, use ice cream on your mocha. It's Yummy!