The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #13940   Message #118128
Posted By: Rick Fielding
27-Sep-99 - 12:57 PM
Thread Name: Ethical Question - Handicapped Fans
Subject: RE: Ethical Question-Handicapped Fans-Two
Ahh, good point Dick. There's a very symbiotic relationship between performer and audience. It takes on some weird forms at times. In the days that I was travelling the boondocks, I knew that I would be "challenged" in every small town I played in. The music that I provided would only be accepted as entertainment if I was able to survive the first night. Requests for songs took the form of "demands", and woe betide the musician who couldn't handle at least 4 out of every 5. After a few months of this however you could be reasonably certain what they were going to ask for, but it was always good to know ahead of time whether a song about the town had been written, and learn it - no matter how awful it was (and it usually was worse than awful).
Once you had survived the trial by fire, the audiences would often become protective and WANT you to succeed. This whole dynamic could happen over the course of just a couple of nights. After that, whenever some drunk would be hassling you, you could tell that the audience would get really nervous, and one of THEM would set the drunk straight. I never once saw the owner of a bar lend a hand to help out a performer who was being distracted to the point they couldn't do their job.
The situation my friend encountered came to an unsatisfactory conclusion because of several factors, none of which involved any "meanness" on his part. I doubt that any performer who had volunteered as much of his time over the years playing in hospitals (as have most folk musicians) would be anything but sympathetic to a handicapped person. He was thrown by the element of surprise in the concert hall, as I'm sure were most of the audience. The collective nervousness, combined with blown verses, and jokes, would make for a scary situation. I'm a bit sorry that some would equate kids, shuffling, and other pretty common occurences at a folk concert with what happened that night. I suspect it was a once in a career situation, and even with a huge amount of experience I'm not sure how I would have been able to handle it (short of changing my whole repertoire that night - which he would not have been able to do.) Sometimes when we try to do the right thing, it backfires.