A Different Kind of Audience

When I was living in Madrid my next-door neighbor was Madison Cano, a singer and songwriter from California. The first time I heard her music I was floored by her voice, the honest lyrics, and her forties like style.
            The shows she played in Madrid were intimate. After playing shows around the city she had created a small but attentive group of fans. It was normal for you to meet someone at one show and see the same people again at the next venue. She created a community around her music. She engaged her audience by starting a conversation with them, and her audience listened. As she began to play the circuit more, the small spaces started to fill in with more people and pretty soon you could look around and watch people mouthing the words. Again, people were listening to what she had to say, they were taking her lyrics and feeling them, having emotional reactions to the sensation they brought on. She played her last show in Madrid to a packed house at La Boca del Lobo in June 2011.
            Madison moved back to New York in mid June of 2011, where she had lived before trekking off to Europe. And one of the first shows she played in the city was in Manhattan at a space called Pianos. In Madrid I rarely ever missed a show, and hearing that she was going on at 7 p.m. in the city I knew I couldn’t miss it.
            I walked over and inside the venue we found each other. We talked for a bit and she asked me if I missed Madrid, “because I do,” she said.
As her band did a sound check I looked at the space. It was a similar size to what you’d find in Madrid, but there was something off about its energy. Drunks in Santa suits bumped into tables, girls and girlfriends and boyfriends yelled loudly at the bar, nobody was paying attention.
Madison picked up the microphone and introduced herself and only those sitting near the band acknowledged her. She started her set. As she sang, I couldn’t believe how many people ignored the rich voice belting out of Madison’s soul. Instead of listening they talked louder to each other to be heard over the music. Through the set I watched as band members from the group going on after walked directly in front of her with their guitars and equipment to set up after. I was appalled. I sat back and watched a truly fabulous singer surrounded by a completely ridiculous audience. There was no respect from the audience or from the other artists in the room. I’m not saying one has to like the music, but surely they could show some appreciation.
It wasn’t only the attitude of the audience, but also of the other musicians that really irked me. Didn’t they want people to listen to them? Didn’t they want to be supported or feel like part of a community?
I left the venue and for the first time since I left I truly missed Madrid.