Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Artist

The Artist
By Michael Cannata

           The audience was distracted. Usually, from the moment he started playing they gave him their complete attention. But today they hardly noticed him. It brought back memories of his younger days. He was an artist, god damn it! When he was younger he would never have tolerated it. He would have walked off the stage while flipping them the bird. But now, the guitar player just kept playing.

            He loved the audience. He put his heart and soul, hell, his very being into his performances. It was his audience that he cared about, not the money.  He played for the love of playing. He performed wherever he could get enough people to stop and listen. His music would make people pause on their way to wherever and enjoy the sweet sounds and insightful lyrics. He loved being close to the audience, he enjoyed the intimacy and the interaction.

            As he got older and got better at his craft he began to develop a following. When he finally found his way onto the big stage the crowds became enormous. As his fame grew he was overwhelmed. He made a lot of money but lost touch with what he valued the most, the audience. He would play until the last person went home, never wanting the night or the performance to end. He began to drink to help him get to sleep. Gradually, he would drink until they threw him out of the bar after the show.

            Playing in front of large audiences was different. The more he tried to give, the more they seemed to take. After every show he would feel drained of emotion to the point where he couldn’t feel anything. His audience had always energized his performance, now they depleted him.

            Somewhere things had gone wrong. His managers had tried to help him. But they didn’t understand.  He was an artist. Not a businessman. He needed to be close to his fans.

            He started playing for smaller crowds in smaller venues. He didn’t drink any less but he certainly made less. But money didn't matter. Backup bands required too much money so he decided to play solo. He stopped writing new songs and just started playing his favorites songs every night. The crowds got thinner. Agents quit on him. He got bookings on his own.

            Today’s show was one he had been looking forward to all week. He had a prime location and a guaranteed audience. He had rehearsed all week and hadn’t had anything to drink all day. At first, his audience was paying him the attention he craved. He was playing as well as he ever had and when each song was over their applause echoed against the walls.

            But shortly after he had begun, their attention shifted. Soon their murmurs turned into outright conversations. Before he could win them back the announcement came over the loudspeakers. There had been a breakdown in the station two stops away. The trains would be delayed.  The commuters would be forced to wait until the trains could get up and running again.

            How fortuitous! He finally had a captive audience!

            He was surrounded by the most important thing in his life… an audience. And they would be hanging around, listening to his performance whether they liked it or not. If they ever had a need for a song that would cheer them up this was it!

            The old guitar player turned up his little amplifier, pulled the microphone closer and moved his open guitar case closer to the crowd on the station platform. If the breakdown lasted long enough, he might just make enough money for a bottle of booze after his meal.

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