Jamie from South Carolina writes:
So we have this pretty cool jam every Thursday, sans spoons and washboards. (Well, its not cool every Thursday. Sometimes its just a little sad because nobody with a mandolin or fiddle shows up and these guitar people want to sing their original compositions. If there is some talent in the house on any given Thursday, I am going to get a pledge from newcomers with guitars that want to lead a song that they will sing easy bluegrass songs, of which there are 10,000 to chose from, instead of dragging us through their 15 verse original with barre chords and unpredictable tempo changes and four-letter expletives.)
But, here is the reason I write to you today, oh master of the bluegrass jam:
Lately, we have "full-house" audience that will cheer and whoop and holler after each little number we do. What these people are excited about, I know not, because they can't possible hear our music over their incessant yack, yack, yakking.
We aren't getting paid for this rudeness. I'm not doing this for money. I like the quirkiness of having this bluegrass jam at a beach bar where you see Dead Heads twirl and sing along with old-timers playing Uncle Pen and where men in cowboy hats play their mandolins to I Know You Rider and really seem to enjoy the new tune they just learned. Everybody seems to be really excited about is happening with the popularity of this jam but it is bound to implode very soon unless we get the crowd (including musicians sitting out) to behave properly.
I've spoken with people about this. They say its a lost cause to get an audience in a bar to actually listen to music.
I say there is no other choice than to let it be known that if you come to The Pelican on Thursday nights during the bluegrass jam, you had better do most of your loud talking outside. I don't want it to become like a funeral parlor in there but something has to be done or the whole thing just won't work.
The bar owner Cathy is pretty cool and will most likely go along with any sort of intelligent, polite plan to keep the audience from talking too much during songs given the fact that her business was nil on Thursday nights before we started playing at her bar.
Rather than a verbal approach to crowd control, I'm seriously thinking about little table cards that explain that the musicians playing are playing for free (I don't want to be paid, we don't have a tip jar)...and in order for The Folly Beach Bluegrass Society to exist, everybody has to do their part. Maybe put in a few tidbits about what bluegrass music is, the history, something, I don't know. Call me a control-freak, a bluegrass jam dominatrix, if you will. I'm just trying to keep it special so I can play music every Thursday night, have a few beers, meet some new faces, learn new songs, etc. all 1 mile from my house.
What do you do when the audience is rude? If you are getting paid, you just play. If you're not getting paid, why would you put up with it?