For Father’s Day this year, Angela and my daughter gave me the gift I would have to wait almost two months for: a picnic dinner and an outdoor performance of Crooked Still, a folk and bluegrass band we like. They were performing yesterday evening as part of the City of Kenmore’s Summer Concert Series. I took the whole day off, even though the concert didn’t start until 6pm. We were expecting precipitation, so we loaded up the Forester with raingear, our Igloo™ full of sandwiches and chips and fruit and cookies, and headed around the north end of the lake to St. Edward State Park.
Folks had already begun tossing out blankets and setting out lawn chairs on the stiff yellow lawn when we arrived, and people kept coming long after the band appeared and started playing their banjo-and-bass-fiddle flavored fare.
There was a big meadow off to the left where kids of all ages were able to run around and the parents tending them could still enjoy the music, although Mara was for the most part content to sit on the blanket with us, listen to the music, and drop wet chunks of cantaloupe into her lap. She did, however, don her dress-up dress and her fairy princess crown and dance a little bit.
The weather turned out to be perfect — cloudy so we didn’t have the sun right in our eyes, yet no rain. And the show was great. The band played everything we knew of theirs, except their version of “Wind and Rain”, which really is stunningly beautiful and sad.
One thing that bugged me was an almost total lack of the traditional audience ethos, wherein a soloist gets a hearty round of applause after noodling for a few measures, and wherein the band is recalled to an encore with thunderous beating of palms together. I kept being embarrassed that very few people seemed to be even aware that one of these fine musicians was actually doing a solo, and at the end of the show, the band dithered for a moment at the back of the stage because it was unclear whether the audience really wished them to come back.
It made me think that the audience had somehow slipped into a relationship with this live performance like unto the one they have with their televisions. When the program is over, you get up and leave or turn the channel. You don’t expect to interact, to be given the opportunity to plead for continuation of the show. I wondered last night if the consumer mentality that we are doping ourselves with through our “monitor culture” has begun to degrade our ability to be an audience and participate at the same time. It seemed as though a lot of these people viewed the event as though it were a TV show being aired outside.