M. Giant's
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Monday, May 17, 2004  

Music for the Masses

So I want to thank everyone who came out to our gig on Saturday night, but I can't because there were so goddamn many of you.

Seriously, I didn't realize we were going to end up packing you all in like processed cheese food. I apologize for any discomfort you may have experienced. If it makes you feel any better, I really didn't have any more personal space than you did, probably. Unless you were in that group of eight people sitting at the four-top, in which case there would have been no room at all for my amp.

This was easily our biggest crowd yet. Trash tried to count it several times, but then people kept standing up or moving around or blocking her view, so she ended up estimating about eighty or ninety, in a space that comfortably seats about fifty. It was standing room only, until there was no room to stand any more.

I wonder how the owner took all this. On the one hand, there were a huge number of potential customers. On the other, only a small percentage were actually able to reach the coffee bar. A good three-quarters of our audience was in a position where the only way they were going to get something to drink would be if a barista squirted it at them through a hose.

And this was about forty-five minutes before we were supposed to start.

We'd been telling everyone we'd go on around nine p.m., but come 8:15, people were already in place, and there didn't seem to be much room for newcomers (an assessment that soon turned out to be spectacularly wrong), so we figured we'd better start early rather than make a full room wait until nine. If we had waited, as full as it got, there would have been a riot, and there's nothing worse than rioting hippie acoustic folk fans.

And then there were the people who came in just to get coffee, got it, and turned around and left. They'd come in and wonder where the hell their quiet corner coffee shop had gotten to. I actually heard one woman say to her friends, "Go. Quickly." As if the place were on fire.

Which really would have sucked, given the population density in there. As a person who has written about fires at music venues before, I was glad that this place had both a front and back entrance that were clearly marked and not terribly inaccessible. Even so, in a crowded situation like that, one needs to have an emergency escape plan in place and ready to implement.

I was glad of the huge plate-glass window immediately behind the stage. It's a storefront-type window that faces out towards Snelling Avenue, and it runs almost the entire width of the coffee shop. My escape plan was that if somebody anywhere in the place accidentally set fire to a napkin, or spontaneously combusted, or began smoking too vigorously, I'd stand up, pick up my amp, and hurl it out onto the sidewalk. It weighs sixty-five pounds, so I was confident that it would make a sizable hole. Which I would then be prepared to widen by reaming my bass guitar around in it, if necessary.

The plan underwent a few evolutionary changes as the night progressed. Would I be able to pick up my amp in time to avoid the crush of people pouring towards the front door in flames, or should I just skip the amp altogether and just club the window out with my bass? And should I smash the window at all? While doing so would allow smoke and toxic fumes to escape, it would also allow more oxygen in to feed the hypothetical fire. I just don't have the training to make that kind of call. What tipped the decision for me was the fact that the front door opens inward. So I decided that making room for fifteen people to exit at one time could only be a net benefit.

I might not have even been thinking about this, because there were only one or two people between me and the front door at any given time anyway. However, since the audience included my wife, my parents, and (judging by a few comments that Trash overheard) at least a few Velcrometer readers, I felt a certain obligation to not abandon them to roast alive. More than usual, I mean.

Luck was with us, however, because the issue never came up. Since our entire pyrotechnic display consists of Will shifting the metal face of his resonator guitar under the track lighting, there probably wasn't much risk of it.

Fortunately, our next gig will be outdoors, so we won't need to worry so much about overcrowding. If there's a fire, nobody need be trapped anywhere. But I should probably come up with an emergency plan in the event of hail the size of beer cans.

Today's best search phrase: "Clogging cue sheets and funky lawn mower." This is why you store your cue sheets separately from your lawn mower. This is just common sense, people.

posted by M. Giant 8:42 PM 0 comments


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