Saturday, June 4, 2011
10:30am-2:30pm, FIGMENT Festival, Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, downtown Boston, MA
clear, sunny, breezy
After a very late night of last-minute idea-coalescence and sign-making, I arrived at Boston FIGMENT with a good mix of confidence, excitement and gear (sound equipment, extension cords, game signs).
I was scheduled to be at the festival from 11am-2pm, and my original idea was to have ongoing interactive listening games interspersed with short performance sets at 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30pm.
That schedule didn’t work out at all, but what did happen was a really great learning curve for outdoor/street performing:
Lesson #1: Have help.
I was very lucky that my friends Heidi and Carol were able to come out and assist me – another last-minute arrangement. What wonderful friends!! I couldn’t have handled it otherwise – the set up, the gear transport, the logistics of when I needed to leave my equipment area to ask for help or use the restroom.
Lesson #2: The outdoors is windy, unstable, and noisy.
It was a very slow start: we had quite a time setting up my patch of green space, with the delayed arrival of the power generator, and strong winds that kept toppling over my signs and their tripod/music stand mounts. I had to crank up my volume to overcome the very loud traffic noise, and my pick-up/speaker system almost couldn’t handle it.
Lesson #3: Location Location Location
For the first long while, nobody was stopping by the space. It was a two-part problem.
First, my initial setup, under the shade of a low tree, was too low-visibility. Secondly, my designated area was set away from the main drag of the festival, and didn’t get much pedestrian traffic.
I couldn’t do anything about my designated location, but I did move my set-up to the middle of the grassy space to be more visible. In doing so, I broke my strict rule about keeping the violin out of the direct sunlight. (Thank goodness none of my young students saw me!)
Matters improved. More people stopped. Friends came by.
Lesson #3: For enticing an audience, Signs are not effective; CROWDS are effective.
My listening games, clearly described on large signs, were almost entirely ignored until a small crowd gathered.
Suddenly, I had an audience, and the corresponding rights/gumption to use my mic to ask for audience participation, lead some games, and recruit more audience members from passing foot traffic.
It was like a quorum – all of sudden we could get things done where before the situation was ineffectual.
Things heated up for this final set, and really got fun. After performing a few of my Acadia songs, I proposed a round of Bird Charades.
Lesson #4: Signs are good assistants.
With the aid of my Bird Charades Sign, I explained the game:
We had four pairs of Charade-actors, plus an awesome performance by the Untitled Man (a fellow FIGMENT performer). The Charades were hilarious, and part 3 of the game (Follow the Bird), was a blast.
I’ve never run with my violin before (another grateful-my-students-aren’t-seeing-this moment), and feel a bit guilty about being so irresponsible, but it was super-fun to pretend to be a bird and “fly” from bush to bush to tree to tree.
I was sorry to have to leave so early, and hope I can be around for the whole festival next year!
Labels: Boston FIGMENT 2011