A couple of weeks ago, my family went to the beach for vacation. (I know, I know—if you had a nickel for every time I mentioned the beach this month! Apparently a change of scenery inspires plentiful blog posts and newsletters.)
When we’re there, we often eat out as a large group: lots of fun, but challenging. It’s hard to hear in a crowded restaurant, especially if there’s live music, as there so often is at the beach. We strive to sit far from the musicians, if we can, but on this particular Sunday night, we were nestled in at a table right next to the stage.
At these kinds of venues—crowded restaurants at the beach—it’s rare that anyone shows up for the sake of hearing the performers. (Well, maybe their moms. Or very good friends.)
Halfway through our dinner, a solo performer takes the stage with his guitar—if you can call the table-height wooden platform a stage. He starts in on a set of the kind of music my brain hears as fun—John Fogerty, Neil Diamond, that kind of stuff. We’re eight feet from his barstool. He’s loud, but he’s good.
A few songs in, we’re enjoying our dinner, talking over the musician, when he pauses to tune his guitar and fiddle with his amp. He looks around, taking stock of the crowd, and notices my husband watching him. So Will speaks up.
“You take requests?” Will says.
“Sure. What do you want to hear?”
Will asks for an old Jimmy Buffett song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”
The musician nods and says, “Thanks, man. A little crowd interaction goes a long way.”
It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment how lonely it must be up on that little stage: to be singing, with people talking over you all night; in the front of the room, but with nobody watching. To be putting it out there, without any feedback. Is anybody listening? Do they like it? Do they even see me up here?
It’s entirely possible I’m projecting my sensitive soul all over this poor guy, but that little interaction made me reconsider what it’s like to be the one with the guitar.
The performer did a great job with that Buffet song. Halfway through I thought to capture a little on video (I hoped the musician might even appreciate it). In it, you can see people coming and going behind him, you hear the din of conversation around him. But you also see him play. And he’s good.
We finished our dinner a few songs later; we nodded goodbye and dropped a few bills in the tip jar, mouthed thanks.
We’re back from the beach now, but I’m still thinking about that guy with the guitar. I wouldn’t have thought I had terribly much in common with a guy who plays John Fogerty songs for big crowds, but when he says a little interaction goes a long way, I hear him. I can imagine what it feels like to do your thing in front of people … and feel like they don’t even see you. (I don’t have to try too hard here—I’m a writer, who works behind a screen most days.)
It’s a little early to say if this will stick with me for life, but I hope it will. It’s sticking for now: since that night, I’ve been looking for ways to provide that little bit of interaction for the people making the stuff I enjoy. I’m not a crowd, but I’m a person—a person who can say I see you. I see what you’re making, and I’m here for it. I enjoy what you do. I’m happy you’re doing it.
It’s so easy, I’m disappointed I haven’t been doing this—at least not as much as I wish I’d been—forever. To send a text, saying what’s on my mind: it was good to see you last night. To leave a review—I enjoyed this book—not because the world needs to know what I think but because the artist needs to know that I appreciated the work. To say on my way out the door: Thank you—that was a great song.
It’s just a little interaction. But it goes a long way.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for showing that little bit of appreciation in comments. As someone who enjoys the work, how do you provide that crowd interaction? Are you the one on stage (metaphorical or otherwise)? What kind of interaction goes a long way for YOU?