Thursday, November 10, 2016


I've walked out in the middle of two musical events in the last month because of irritating patter by the performers, even though leaving one of them meant that I would miss more music by a favorite singer/songwriter.

I happened to attend both events with a friend who doesn't know a lot about music, other than what she likes, but knows a lot about theatre. (Her niece is a well-known playwright and her daughter was a theatre major.) In one case, I said, "I can't take any more of this." In the other case, my friend decided when she couldn't listen to more "babbling on and on."

Some patter is good. Your audience wants to feel they know you, so a personal line or two? Great.

Some patter is desirable, even useful. I coached a duo on a song for several weeks before I learned they'd written it in Colorado, not in the Northeast where they were performing. If they'd told me Colorado in the beginning, I would have heard (and coached) the song much differently. When Dan Dockery tells the story that inspired his "Streets of Gold," I hear much more in the song.

But why would I want to hear a singer/songwriter tell me, "I'm lazy?" (He really did say that.)  Unless I'm an idiot, when he finally stops talking and begins to sing, won't I be thinking that the song can't be that good because he was too lazy to spend time on it? Would he walk into a job interview and announce to the person behind the desk that he was lazy?

Why would I want another singer/songwriter to announce that she couldn't remember the lyrics, and then balance her smart phone on her knee so she could remember them? Am I likely to think her songs will be memorable to me? Actually, I do remember one line because she cribbed it from Joni Mitchell.

Then there was a guitar-playing singer/songwriter who announced up front that he was neither a guitarist nor a singer.

A lead singer who told insider jokes (I'm guessing they were jokes) to members of the audience he knew, leaving others in the audience feeling somehow deficient because they didn't get the joke anymore than I did. After we felt left out of the patter, how was the band going to bring us into the music?

Bottom line: Two members of the audience left musical events early, not because the music wasn't good, but because the patter didn't allow us to appreciate the music.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience recently when I attended a talk sponsored by Zonta, here on Sanibel. The woman who introduced the speaker spent several minutes recognizing members of her organization and asking all of those who belonged to stand up: most of the audience. Those of us who didn't belong became outsiders, even though we had bought tickets and were looking forward to hearing the main speaker.
    She wouldn't have considered her talk 'patter,' yet I felt it distracted from the purpose of the evening.