Making Musical Lemonade

When life hands you a lemon, throw it on the floor, stomp on it and play some rock and roll.

One of the most frustrating things about gigs has nothing to do with being on stage or the crowd or forgetting lyrics or anything like that. It’s getting to the show. Depending on where it is, you have to plan ahead or you might be late. I had yet to miss a gig but I knew it would happen eventually, and it did.

I was off to the National Underground in NYC with my friend Rob Ferraro to play a well-rehearsed acoustic set. The show was at 8pm. I left my house at 6. Without traffic, I live about 20 minutes from NYC. I’ve played this venue before and have always gotten there with time to spare. This time, the traffic was relentless. Getting into the Lincoln Tunnel was bad enough but once we got into the city, we just sat there gridlocked. Seven turned to Seven-fifteen. Seven-fifteen turned to seven-thirty. You get the idea.

We eventually called the club to say we were running late but knew that wouldn’t help. I just wanted them to know I was on the way. Long story short, Rob and I found some street parking and literally ran with our guitars in hand to the club. We walked in about 8:40 and while the sound guy was hip to let us play until 9:15 (and we started setting up), the guy who runs the venue came out and told us we couldn’t play. They needed to set up for the next band. Totally understandable. So we split, feeling a bit humbled and embarrassed.

Two of my friends accompanied us on the long walk back to the car and on the way we thought, “Why don’t we just play here, outside?”

That’s just what we did. We sat on the steps of Roosevelt Park on Forsythe and took out our acoustic guitars. As soon as we did this, a few people stopped and asked if we were going to play. “Yes we are!” I said.

We ended up playing four or five songs and had a great time. One guy threw money at us. A girl came up and started dancing in our faces. I met a nice fellow who befriended me on Facebook the next day and spread the word about me to his friends which was very cool of him to do. None of this would have happened had we just played the club gig as scheduled. We had a great time outside, even though it was a bit cold.

Playing outside like that is a different kind of gig. People are walking by and you have to capture their attention. People were looking at us as they passed but when I looked back at them, they turned away instantly. It’s a natural but funny human reaction, I think. It’s as if looking directly at us confirmed some kind of unspoken approval or support and they didn’t want us to think they liked us, even a little bit. When I see street performers, I always try to look at them and smile but I guess there’s that underlying feeling that if I look them in the eye, I’m obliged to throw them some money. Maybe that’s what was going on. We weren’t looking for money. We were just having a good time. It was a fun little side-experiment that was going on in my head as we played.

Getting out of the city was again, miserable. I have never seen traffic that bad. We sat still for almost another hour getting to the tunnel. But we had a good time and laughed about playing on the street. We took a crappy situation and made the best out of it. We took something negative and turned it into something positive. We made musical lemonade – and it was sweet.

Here’s a video shot by my buddy. For more, head over to my Youtube channel:

Thanks to everyone who made it a great night!

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