Flint, Michigan. Lorain, Ohio. In both of these towns, we heard plenty about local folk trying to rebuild and revive a hurting town and a sputtering economy. The Tree House Lounge, in Washington, DC, was a slightly different matter. I had told our friends, Gordon and Stacia, that I had booked a gig there and was looking to drum up an audience for the show. At first, they were a little hesitant, telling me that Northeast Florida had a reputation as something of a dicey neighbourhood. However, they consulted with a friend of theirs who lived not far from there, and part he told them it was a part of DC undergoing “regentrification”, and should be alright.
The GPS had a little bit of challenge directing us there. Actually, the challenge was mainly on our part, trying to find a place to park, at first. As we circled around a nearby block to look again for closer parking, an old, dishevelled, black woman walked in front of our car and pointed a plastic, pink squirt gun at us. It was obviously a plastic, pink squirt gun, so I wasn’t feeling particular threatened as such. Still, Pony was startled by just the crazed demeanor of the woman.
The Tree House Lounge is a smallish venue, currently restricted to the second floor of a somewhat narrow brownstone. The place itself only serves drinks (“a liquid diet,” as Colin, the owner put it), but there is a pizza shop next door, and patrons of the Tree House can bring food in from there.
I was the first of three acts for that night. There was a cover charge, and each act was being paid according to how many people they brought in (as per instructions from Colin, I told those coming out to hear me to make sure they identified themselves as my fans). It was an unfortunate oversight that we forgot to bring along the video equipment, as I had about ten or so people come out to hear me play, and it was a fun night. The Tree House has a lovely, good-sized sound system, and I felt very comfortable and on top of my game that night.
The act following me was another singer/songwriter from Austin, also named Michael. I believe he has some decent songs, but he did a disservice to his music by playing everything very loud. It made it difficult, at best, to hear his lyrics. One of my friends asked the bartender to adjust the volume on the sound system after just a couple of songs into Austin Mike’s set. The bartender turned it down a bit, and Austin Mike just strummed and sang louder. I know his last name, but I will avoid identifying him anymore than I have. If, by chance, he should come across this blog (or it should come to his attention in some way), I would suggest that he needs to have the confidence as a songwriter and a performer to work with some variation in his volume. As it was, he failed to bring in any of his own fans to the venue that night, and he didn’t win over any new ones, either.
The third act was a jazz quartet, led by a bassist named Keith Whitby. They were mighty fine. In fact, one of my friends observed that those four musicians (including a drummer) played with less overall volume and more range of expression than Austin Mike (I’m jus’sayin’….). We stuck around to catch most of that last act’s set.
I had a conversation with Colin (the owner) about his place, the neighbourhood, and such. He has plans to expand into the lower floor of his place. He has an architect who has drawn up all the necessary plans and such. At this point, it’s all down to getting the necessary permits, and this is where Colin was remarking about the restaurant and bar scene in DC, as well as the real estate situation. It seems that new bars and restaurants are popping up all over the city (I had actually heard an article on the public radio where a restaurant owner was complaining about the challenge of finding decent waitstaff, chefs, and such; apparently there is a high demand for all such positions). In addition, several neighborhoods are going through a re-gentrification process at this time. “Even the crack houses two blocks away are selling for like $350,000,”Colin told me.
Overall, it was a good gig, and I am booked to return there on the 14th of November. I have some more friends who weren’t able to make it this time around (it was a bit of short notice), so I look forward to building a bigger crowd the next time. And next time, we will definitely remember the video equipment.