Yesterday marked the second time Anne and I have been able to see the Adam Ezra Group. Much like the first time, we were both struck by the passion that Adam (and the percussionist) Turtle poured into the performance (A few more pics on Facebook). Adam wears his emotions on his sleeve during his performance to such an extent that I felt like giving him a hug after “She’s just a girl”, a song about an ex-girlfriend. Exactly like last time, the group had CDs for sale for name-your-own-price. I really like Adam’s spiel in trying to get people to take CDs, which went something like this: “If you’ve got ten bucks, please throw it in the ‘I Love You’ box and help yourself to a CD. If you’ve got five bucks, I’d rather that you had a CD, so five is cool too. If you’re broke and you’re down to your last dollar, you keep that dollar, and take a CD.”
During a couple of the set breaks, Anne and I introduced ourselves to Adam and chatted a bit, explaining that we’d seem them on a prior trip through town, and that we were really happy we’d had a chance to stop in for a Monday show. During the third set, I was again really appreciating the small-venue music experience–Anne and I were right up front with my cousin and her husband, feeling the music, physically and emotionally. And then the biggest treat of the night happened.
The band unplugged, came out into the bar and played John Denver’s Country Road. We all sang along. Yes, even I sang along (and I wasn’t even drunk!). It’s hard for me to describe now just what a great 3 minutes those were, singing with the crowd with the band. With the band. We, the spectators had become part of the performance. We were part of the art, not just mute observers, nodding appreciatively.
After they finished, Adam made a few more CD sales, then came over to sit with me. I described, as best I could, what I’d gotten from that sing-along. I stumbled with words like art, and participation, and inclusion, and “we’re all artists, man”. OK, no, I wasn’t that bad. But it really was a revelation for me, that by bringing the playing of the music off the stage, and into the crowd, they had crossed the ‘fourth wall’ and explicitly said to those hardy enough to have made it to the end “you’re good enough to perform with us.” And that completely changed the experience of the performance for me. It helped to drive home with me that art is not a one-way street, from artist to consumer. Art is about experience–what we feel and think and do when the art enters our senses. And in a performance space like that, with musicians like the Adam Ezra group, what we (the audience) feel and think and do can feed back to the performers. We influence the art, change the art, guide the making of the art. That’s the experience of art, feeding back, changing the experience of everyone involved.
We finished the night with pictures of Adam with us. Normally I wouldn’t do something like this for myself. Under most other circumstances, it just feels trite. But I knew I wanted something more than my usual ‘band photos’ to commemorate the evening. So we went with the trite, thanked Adam, and went on our way.
My biggest regret of the evening is that I didn’t make more of an effort to say hello to the other members of the band. Josh, the keyboard player, talked with us during a set break, and it was great to learn about his experiences on the road, away from his wife and three children. Otherwise, I feel like I owed more to the other band members.
Thanks to Turtle, Josh, Adam, and the bass player and the drummer for a great performance. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.