ISADORA SCHAPPELL '17
Recently, I went on a journey to another small Connecticut liberal arts college to play a show with my band. The school was only twenty minutes away in our cramped tan mini-van, but the anticipation made it seem like we were going to the dark side of the moon. The school was small and quaint, with a football stadium in the center. The venue itself was large and cavernous, billing itself as the music venue on campus. It boasted a fancy sound system and a real stage. Playing on a stage was a step up for us, being used to playing at the audience’s eye level in someone’s living room.
The show started off like many others. Giddiness and excitement in the air and absolutely no one in the room. The music bounced off every corner, reverberating back at us. Then suddenly out of no-where, the loudest group of people ever tumbled in. First the guys, all sporting the universal sign of premature balding and/or sports fandom, the snapback, ambled in and assumed their positions with their backs to the stage. Following close behind, was their lady counter-clan, rocking fallopian tube length minis and tiny purses bursting with orange juice bottles half full of vodka. As I watched from the stage one of the girls marched into a corner and proceeded to give a lap dance to one of the bros. I was confused. As far as I knew no one had ever given a lap dance at one of our shows before. As a drummer, I admired the girl’s ability to find and maintain the perfect gyrating pace during a very sloppy cover of Childbirth’s “I Only Fucked You As A Joke”. The ability to back it up during a song about regret fucking is an accomplishment in itself. It was almost as if we weren’t there at all, and she was bopping along to Flo-rida in her head.
Aside from the novelty of the lap-dance, there was the usual ho-hum grinding and profuse taking of selfies. The only pictures we’d appear in would be inadvertent photo-bombs of us looking confused and sweaty in the background.
The crowd did not warm up to us as we played our seven-song set. But at the same time, we were a bit scared to tell these people to give us a chance, as they seemed like the ones who had given us wedgies in middle school. It felt like we were communicating in completely different languages. They looked at us like Martians, and it would have been believable if we had started the show by saying “We come in peace from planet Zenon.” However there were some encouraging nods and smiles during the show and a few people turned around to face the stage.
Having to play for an audience who would clearly rather be getting jiggy to some trance music can be depressing. However there is something liberating about playing for a crowd who couldn’t care less what you are doing on stage. It frees you from the need to look “cool” or act “cool” while playing. As a result, you take risks you never would have before with the thought that maybe you’ll catch the attention of one audience member. There might be people out there who are into it, but can’t show it, or it might spark something in them.
It would have truly been fun had any of them been listening. At all. Who cares if they hated the music—that would have been great--if they threw beer cans at our heads—awesome. But to be ignored is so much harder. Our show ended and the next band came on. They went to this school and had definitely formed a small tribe within the homogenous population. They played deeply odd droning rock music and the crowd dispersed even further. It was nice to see them doing whatever they wanted even though the surrounding environment was wildly apathetic to their particular breed of weird.
What was great though was that the entire adventure made me wildly thankful that Wesleyan is a place where creativity and individuality can flourish. I love and appreciate that people turn up in equal measure to funkadelic puppet shows and atonal performance art. To the people who show up early and to those who stay till the end, to those who start the dancing and to those who start the bands, to those who come, and to those who cheer them on, thank you. Thank you so much, because really, playing to an empty room, especially when it’s full of people, sucks.