Monday, 6 May 2013

Barroom busking


Tonight Cologne and I went on a little expat-bar pub-crawl. Anybody familiar with this blog will be able to guess how I feel about expat bars, but Cologne loves the living shit out of them, and since half the Japanese in the room are there because they want to meet foreigners, I will grudgingly concede that they are, counterintuitively, a good way to meet people. We ended up at Zaza's, but we started at Pig & Whistle, because Pig & Whistle.

I was wondering if Golden Week was maybe going to draw a significant crowd, but it was actually kinda dead (though Sanjou Oohashi was decently populous). Actually, us two and a busily busing white guy were the only foreigners in the place, so I was ready to get comfortable. Tonight they had a few different acts for our entertainment, including a little three-piece set of guitar, drums and keyboard, and damn but the keyboardist was a cutie. Neither of us knew a single song they played, but it was all pretty soft and relaxing stuff – a little light jazz, a bit of blues, and Feist. Canada represent! I winced when Keyboards, the frontman, described one of the songs they were covering as originally having been played by “four black people,” but otherwise it was pretty much just some mild background music to accompany the Asian Ballroom Dancing Championship and secondhand smoke.

Then, in their last song, the guy announced that he was super sorry and all, but he was going to come around with a hat and if you could maybe consider giving them a few hundred yen for their trouble, that would be just dandy.

So what the fuck's up with that? Go ahead and try that in a Canadian bar and see what kind of a reception you get. Probably something like “Um...no? I paid for my beer.” See, your audience is doing you a far bigger favour by experiencing your work than you're doing them by producing it. Doesn't matter how good you are or what you do. Whether they're listening to your set, watching your film, or reading your slashfic, they have absolutely no goddamn obligation to do it and you'd better well appreciate it, because to some extent creating quality art is an end in itself, but you're lying if you try to tell me that you don't then want to show it off.

You can come back to me and say that they're just offsetting the costs they incurred in terms of transportation, purchasing their masses of equipment, and, you know, investing years into learning how to play an instrument. But then I'll ask you, what the hell is that shit? Music is a hobby like any other, and hobbies cost money. Maybe you have aspirations, somewhere in the far, far future of being able to make a modest living off your skills, but pleasure, self-fulfillment, and the enjoyment of your audience should be the rewards you're shooting for. In the meantime, just be satisfied with your free beer and the fact that, hey, you actually got to play for somebody other than your parents and partners for once.

Cologne and I both shifted uncomfortably and coughed up 500 yen each, but it fucked with the mood a little bit. We left shortly after.

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