Full Heart, Full House (My Afternoon at Empress)
I played Empress Ale House for the first time on October 13 and it went so well that I hope it won't be my last.
This little neighbourhood pub is oozing with charm and short on pretence. It really feels like a "come one, come all - just as you are" kind of place. There were young people and old people. There was an 83 year old country crooner (side note - eccentric old men are turning into my favourite audience members). He would be talking to me between sets and then break off into song mid sentence, watching for my recognition of his country classics. I need to brush up on my country classics.
The room was nearly packed, and I'd guess that meant between 40 and 60 people. The bartender told me some Saturday afternoons are standing room only.
Who knew so many people were out on a Saturday afternoon, and how have I been squandering mine?!
I was worried that a Saturday afternoon slot at Empress could be a gamble because there is no cover charge. This means people didn't pay to see you. They are not invested. They might rather have some peace and quiet to chat with friends. Fair enough.
The gamble is wether or not anyone will pay attention.
I can gratefully say I captured and held the room's attention. Mostly.
There were moments of palpable connection, which is the best I can hope for. Travis did sound for me that afternoon and complimented me on my dynamics. He mentioned my ability to read a room and respond with the energy the song and audience needs at each unique moment. That might just be the best compliment I've ever received. That living connection is exactly why I play.
Empress has a great, curated beer list and while they don't have food they allow you to bring your own. This led to some free fried chicken courtesy of a friend (thanks Gou!)
I was even able to test out a new way to convert a necktie into a bow tie, thanks to some YouTube pointers. That tie I'm wearing the photos - total necktie conversion. I think I sold it pretty well.
There was one more reason to be grateful for the gig. Russell Bingham, who'm I've been lucky enough to get to know recently, showed up with a large table of friends. Some are new fans. Russell brought his camera and, much to my surprise, shot the whole show. The photos are the best performance shots I have and I am so grateful for Russell's generosity with his gift.
Here's to hoping my next batch of gigs at the start of November leave as big a smile on my face. I hope you can come out and share a moment or two in the music.