As a touring musician, I have to admit that when I have the good fortune to spend time with another (shall we say for reference to this article, a “seasoned” act), one of our favorite topics tends to center around our history of bad, unbelievable, bizarre, or death defying engagements from the past.
I’m not talking about marriage engagements. It’s the gigs. The shows. The events. Whatever you choose to call them. The successful or fun ones are simply not worth talking about and it would take about a gillasecond (which is about a half a millisecond) to inadvertently be targeted at the table of conversation as braggadocio or insecure. And of course none of us dares share how insecure we actually are, which makes me wonder why do we do what we do, but that’s another story.
“Hey, I played in a cave!” pipes in one individual.
“Oh yeah, well, I performed in a Volcanic Crater in New Zealand.”
And another. “Well I played in a music store that sold guitars and wigs!”
Ok. I confess to proudly owning those contributions along with playing for 16 schools of children in two counties over a week-long period in Rock Springs, Wyoming in December for 10 years in a row. But, even that story did not top some of my fellow musician’s experiences.
Then, one evening during a conversation among players and friends, I happened to bring up a particularly memorable occasion where I was thrust into the bitterly freezing temperature one December afternoon in Quebec City, Canada, about a two-hour train ride north of Montreal, Canada.
I had chosen this region of the world in the midst of the Holiday Season and left my home in Florida to capture the spirit of the times by venturing to one of the colder spots I could reasonably afford to go on short notice.
Following a few wonderful days in Montreal we caught a train north to the spectacular town of Quebec City. I guess Montreal wasn’t snowy enough for me or I was simply in search of the bigger flake. (I suppose I could have just looked in the mirror.)
After an afternoon of running from building to building to escape the cold, that was so bitter ice shivered, I rode the funicular down to the town’s area below. Shuffling out of one building and on my way to another, I stopped dead in my tracks as I heard music off to my right. Any touring musician can spot in an instant the difference in a recording blasting out of a horned speaker and a live duo.
I stood there – pardon the pun – frozen in my tracks as I stared in disbelief at the pair of musicians on a stage made out of ice. That’s right. ICE! The benches in front. Ice. On the ground. Ice. The sound system. Covered with ice. The instruments they played. Probably made out of ice. But the music they played was warm. The current of the music passed through the air and was astonishingly controlled, relaxed, musical, and perfectly restrained.
One of the only two audience members in an outdoor venue that easily seated 200 stood up after the tune, poff poffed a short clap with his thick gloves, and rapidly scurried away for the warmth and safety of the nearest building. The couple on stage smiled. That’s right. They SMILED at the escapee and thanked them over the microphone for coming out. The joy from the duo, which appeared genuine, was something I will never forget. It had to either be the highest form of professionalism I had ever seen or I was simply a witness to utter insanity. Or maybe love. You’d have to love each other to endure.
I didn’t poff poff my gloves. I just triple scurried to the nearest building, sliding along on the, uh, ice. I couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of my eye two things. There was a large hand painted sign by the side of the stage with the duos name (probably the Poff Poff’s) and it stated in all its Magic Marker glory – The Poff Poff’s – 1-5pm today. 4 sets! I then recall looking at my watch and it was twenty minutes past one.
I finished my story and there was silence around the table. We ordered another round of hot coffee and more than likely all thought something along the lines of, “You don’t know a tough gig until you “can’t” feel it.”
Humbleness is measured in Fahrenheit.