A blow struck for liberty

A great deal of verbiage has been spilled on these and other pages regarding the new environment for live music venues, about how the inconsiderate acts of a few dozen clueless individuals (or their children) can ruin a musical event by their careless acts. I wish to report that a blow for liberty and entertainment was struck the other night. Here's the story…

Terry Lee Hale was an influential member of the Seattle music scene in the late 80's and early 90's. Ostensibly a "folk" musician, he played guitar and sang with a voice of pain and heartbreak from failed relationships and the loss of innocence. He was a musical god in this area, yet he just fell off the face of the earth. While reading a book chronicling the history of the rise of the "grunge" scene in Seattle, I kept finding his name. Inspiration struck, and I searched for his name on the Internet. Sure enough, I found that he was still making music, but that he had been doing it in Europe for a number of years. Following that inspiration, I found an email address, and sent him the classic fan letter, letting him know how much his music had touched me all those years ago. Many weeks passed before he replied, mentioning in passing that he appreciated my communications, and inviting me to a small concert that he would be performing in the Seattle area in a couple of weeks. Oh happy days! New music, old music, and the chance to purchase recordings. I just couldn't pass it up.

The venue was beyond small, and downright intimate. It seemed that somebody had transformed their small house between Fremont and the zoo into a restaurant, with a tiled in patio instead of grass substituting for the back yard. It was on this patio that Terry was to play. There were a few dozen chairs, a couple of tables, and perhaps fifty people who ate dinner and stayed for the music.

Except for those yahoos who were there for something else. You know who you are. And you have friends. In fact, talking to your friends is much more important than the event that you paid for and came to see. I'd like to see you skinned and covered with salt. Even Cindy noticed: these people are quiet between songs, and speak louder when the music is on so that they can be heard. There is no leaning into an ear to pass a secret thought about the music, only something loud enough to be shared by all. We moved three times to get closer to the music, and farther away from the Chatty Cathys. It didn't work.

So it was an outdoor venue. The traffic noise was a constant, and there was the occasional deep throated Harley being kick-started at the tavern across the street. These things are unavoidable, but inconsiderate rudeness is not. It's active and intentional. It's stupid, foolish, and annoying. Almost any artist deserves better. Including Terry. He finally got fed up with this behavior. In mid song, he stopped playing and leaned towards the people who were RIGHT BESIDE HIM JUST CHATTING AWAY, and waited for them to notice. It didn't work. By definition, they were so oblivious to the music that they hadn't noticed that it had stopped. Terry yelled "HEY!" into the mike, and everybody noticed. Nobody said a word as he stared at the people that had offended him. After a while, he started playing is quiet guitar again, and finished the song, apologizing in his own way that he appreciated the attention. The offending parties stood up and left, but didn't leave, only moving farther away to continue their conversation.

Terry later asked if he should keep playing or if he should take a break. Those of us who had come for the music asked him to keep playing, and he mentioned that his friends were there to see him. I liked that: those of us who came for the music wanted more music. I swear, this guy could tune his guitar to an appropriate setting, and make you cry by reading the want ads. His music was that good, as was his performance that night. Yet even the public shaming of the two nearby talkers wasn't enough to quiet those others who really didn't care for the performance. Again, you know who you are, and there's a special circle of hell waiting for you and your friends…