I've been in Curious Gage for almost 3 years, and it's changed me as a performer, completely for the better. For the second summer in a row, we've participated in Streetmosphere, a program sponsored by Beet Street and various businesses in Old Town Fort Collins. Throughout the summer months, groups and artists will take over busy sections of Old Town and spend three hours showing the city what they can do. Because of this program, Curious Gage has become an even tighter group: we arrange faster, choreograph faster, set up and take down equipment faster, perform better, support each other better, get our business done better.
But here's why I settled down to write this evening.
Our last appearance was at Oak Street Plaza. Sooooo many things had been happening behind the scenes. Between our outside jobs, our efforts to complete our upcoming album, buying and replacing sound equipment, setting up our fall concert schedule, and our genuinely busy lives, we were all spent. We had been preparing for a possible rain-out, given that most of July and August had afternoons and evenings that dissolved into massive storms, and in fact, that day's weather forecast had suggested the same would happen during our three hour performance. Instead, we had blistering hot sun for a majority of it, leading us to some profound discomfort as our clothes started to stick to us from sweat, our faces hurt from squinting under interrogation-style blinding sunlight, and our giant water bottles becoming subjected to our intense frustration as they rapidly emptied in less than an hour.
We spend at least two evenings a week rehearsing, fine tuning our current 26-song set, meticulously smoothing away any and all bumps. Some songs smooth out better than others. We've had an arrangement combing The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and U2's "With Or Without You" in our repertoire for some time, long before I joined the group, and we've had to change keys and soloists and background vocals many, many times. It's not the easiest arrangement in the world to get through, let alone perform consistently well. So with that in mind, factoring in all the random crap I mentioned above, when that song came up in our show, it's not exactly like we were jumping up and down to perform it. It was more like, "Just get through this (insert expletive here) song and then we can finish this set and hunt for shade so we don't collapse from heat stroke."
The song went well. That set... hell, our whole show went well. We had somewhere around 10-12 different people or couples come up to us and compliment us, request songs, or ask us questions about how we do what we do. That, for us, is a good day! But the topper was a man who approached us at the end of the night. He was brand spanking new in Fort Collins, dropping off his son at CSU, and had been spending his first day in town wandering around, familiarizing himself with his new surroundings. He heard us singing "Every Breath", and stayed to listen to us for the remainder of our final two sets. He told the two soloists on that song (Nic and Carleen Widhalm) that "Every Breath" had been the song he and his wife had danced to at their wedding. I usually laugh when I hear something like that, given the song is a romantic-sounding story about stalking, and Sting himself rolls his eyes when people share with him it's "their song" and then sarcastically wishes them luck. But I kept quiet to hear the rest of his story. Not only was it his first day in FoCo, not only was he dropping off his first child at college, but he had recently lost his wife to cancer, and was perhaps not having the best of days. When he heard us, he thought we performed the song perfectly. It reminded him of many good things, and whenever we would make eye contact with him during our show, we could see him grinning and clearing enjoying our work. He didn't have to share any of his story with us, but he was so happy from hearing us sing one song that he ended up making all four of us speechless.
Sometimes, I don't like what I'm trying to make into my career. The business of art is at times catty and degrading. There are far too many people who hoist their unfounded opinions onto an ignorant public, and far too many people who take advantage of everyone's love of gossip and trash-talking famous people's failures. Then there are times when a shy four year old comes up to me to ask if I could sing her favorite song to her, or couples start dancing Lindy Hop while we sing a song most people have never even heard before, or strangers stop mindlessly walking by and find seats to listen to four people who absolutely love what they're doing. Getting recognized and pulled into appreciative conversation while out running errands, or being complimented by someone who, it turns out, used to live in your hometown and is beaming because you two share something so random in common... it makes all the bad stuff go away. I have loved the arts since I was two years old and capable of understanding that people did this for a living, but throughout my twenties, I've reached an understanding that it's not always about the performer. It's not about the escapism of a role, or the therapy of expressing the things you can't share any other way, or the applause, or the lure of fame and success. It's about knowing that you are appreciated for doing the things most people wish they could do. It's about the times when you can be proud of your talents rather than feeling excluded or ostracized because of them.
And it's especially about the moments when someone shares with you why you've made their day better.