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Independent singer-songwriters have it tough. We struggle for airplay, struggle for reviews and we play small venues that bigger artists don't really want to. We play for forty bucks here, twenty bucks there and play for tips just about everywhere. Selling 1000 cd's is a successful outing for us. Solo folk musicians, in particular, have it really tough. We don't have a band, we don't usually look very cool and we usually sing songs that are on the softer side, and can be somewhat hard to hear in a public venue. Over the years I have learned how to sing over people talking, drunk people, rude people and people who hate acoustic folk music. I have broken up fights and have had my cd's and tip money stolen. I have been told by coffeehouse patrons that I am absolutely brilliant, and then a half hour later, at the same gig, have been told I suck. I have been reminded that we already have a Bob Dylan and that we don't necessarily need, or want another one. There have been good times, bad times and plain weird times performing in everything from coffeehouses, bookstores, art galleries, corporate events and parties. I have learned to accept it all, and accept it with pride.
However, there is one talent in particular that I have acquired over the years that I am quite proud of. I have developed a special knack for predicting when that loud, irritating, coffee grinder volcanic-like sound will erupt from the latte' machine. Remember the movie 'Dumb and Dumber?' Jim Carrey is sitting in a van and turns to Jeff Daniels and asks, "Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?" He then begins to scream, at the top of his lungs, in a voice that makes you want to vomit or cry, or both. That is what I have to sing over at every single coffeehouse gig. It happens at least 25 times during every single performance. There I am, perched on a chair strumming my guitar and singing into the microphone, putting on public display my innermost thoughts and then wham....Lloyd starts screaming at the top of his lungs. Yes, I have named every single latte' machine Lloyd. That was Jim Carrey's name in the movie and that is the name I have given to that awful, boisterous and downright evil machine.
Lloyd never goes away. He is always there, watching me. He is waiting for that special moment in every song, right before you hit the first chorus, to start spewing his hatred at me. Lloyd is the worst harmony singer in the world. Lloyd follows me everywhere I perform. He sneaks up on me when I least expect it and he is in my dreams. I hate Lloyd, and he hates me.
Over the years I have learned to live with Lloyd. I know he will never go away, so all I can do is learn how to maneuver around him, fake him out. The key is to know and understand the duties of the coffeehouse employees. Only certain employees make Lloyd scream. Those are the ones to watch. People would never guess, but during every song I have one eye on the lyric sheet and the other eye on girl behind the counter who fires up Lloyd. If I see her take two steps toward Lloyd, I immediately go into an instrumental break where I do nothing but play guitar. I keep on pickin' while I watch Lloyd's steam rise.
Sometimes I can even see Lloyd's steel canister filling up and I can estimate how much longer he will spew his hatred. When Lloyd starts to simmer down, I resume my vocal performance. It is an art form that I am proud of, and a talent that can only be acquired after hundreds of coffeehouse performances. I have not defeated Lloyd, just learned how to be a team player with him. For my next gig, I'm going to the coffeehouse where I'm performing, and I'm going to scout him out. I'm going to let him know I'm coming, and I'm going to show him who is boss.