To my left were a couple of women who looked barely old enough to drink. They yammered for long, squealy stretches about jobs and friends, and the photos on their smartphones, and the Facebook updates they were posting.
To DF’s right were two women whose voices were audible but whose words I couldn’t quite make out. Thankfully, they left toward the end of the first set; at that point DF told me they’d spoken in detail about how best to avoid the locals during bike trips to other countries.
You go all the way to Guatemala or Sierra Leone and you want to AVOID the locals? I thought. Why did you even go? And why are you HERE when you obviously don’t care about the music?
We’d each paid a $10 cover and we had a tough time enjoying the John Coltrane tribute. And although I’m not a musician, I was plenty steamed about what I saw as disrespect to the four men onstage.
Right now, I’m plenty steamed at myself for not saying anything.
A place to listen
Oh, I thought about it. My plan was to say something like:
“I’m sure you don’t realize how loud your voices are, but they’re interfering with our ability to hear the music. Could you continue your conversation somewhere else?”
“I can hear you, or I can hear the quartet – and I’ve paid to hear the quartet.”
When you talk in a movie theater they ask you to leave. If you so much as whisper during live theater the people sitting nearby glare at you. And don’t even think of unwrapping a cough drop during the symphony; the ushers might slap it out of your hand.
Yet I hesitated to say anything to these chatterboxes because I kept thinking, “This is a bar. People talk in bars.”
But this wasn’t a singles bar with a DJ, or a bar with a howling live band and a floor full of gyrating dancers. It’s a tavern oriented toward folk music and spoken-word performances, with jazz one night a week.
Which brings me back to the performers: In a town this size it’s well-nigh impossible to make a living as a jazz musician. Those guys almost certainly have day jobs and then rehearse for hours to deliver intricate, deeply felt music. (I know nothing about the genre but I was fascinated by the saxophone in particular.)
Most of us leaned forward, rapt, as they played their hearts out. Here and there, though, people chatted as though they were sitting in their living rooms. In other words, even if we’d changed seats we probably would have been bugged by conversation.
Please be quiet
Maybe it’s a result of people being accustomed to talking through TV and movies at home. Possibly they were multitasking, i.e., catching up with friends while taking in a little culture. Perhaps they’re just inconsiderate, self-centered jerks.
Or maybe I’m hypersensitive and unrealistic. Did my $10 expenditure give me the right to say something? What about my personal conviction that if someone is playing music you ought to listen?
Again, we’re not talking about a local rock band covering Top 40 hits so the bar can sell gallons of beer to dancers who’ve worked up a sweat. You expect people will try to talk over the band as they try to get to know each other. But since that requires yelling – and since no one can out-shout an amplifier – such conversations tend to be short, to be conducted during breaks or even taken outdoors.
This was jazz. This was music for your head and your heart, not your feet and your gonads. It was performed to make us listen, think and feel. Damned hard to do that when someone is burbling about her awesome! new job.
Readers: Next time, should I politely say something? Or should I just ask the waitress to slip them a mickey?