“Let me ask you something,” said the bartender at [le] poisson rouge to my daughter and I. The Dueling Fiddlers concert (which I blogged about here) had finished, and I was paying our tab. “Did you come specifically to hear this show, or did you just come to be at the club?”*
That surprised me. Not only had we come for that event, we’d each left our respective Super Bowl parties early to get there on time. (If you’ve ever lived in Wisconsin and the Packers are in the Super Bowl, you’re a big football fan, even if it’s for that night only.) “The reason I’m asking,” he explained, “is that we’re finding that people are starting to come just to be at the club. They’ve been here before, or have heard it’s really cool, so they just show up and see whatever is going on. They’ll even pay a $30 cover.” (Many LPR shows are much less than that.)
Fascinating. The venue itself is becoming the attraction. A place where you know you can show up, have a good drink and/or some food, and know something interesting will be happening. Hey, what do you want to do tonight? Let’s just go to LPR.
That hadn’t occurred to me. If it’s really working out that way, then not only are the LPR staff doing a great job, but the eclectic spirit of the club is meeting an equally (or near-equally) eclectic spirit among it’s patron base.
You can’t say LPR is a classical club or a rock club or a jazz club or a hip-hop club or a whatever club, because it presents all those things. What I’d assumed up until that conversation was that LPR serves a wide array of mostly separate audiences, with some overlap–a view shaped, I’m sure, by my age and background. But why shouldn’t the screw-genres, we-like-everything spirit of composer/performers like Missy Mazzoli and Gabriel Kahane (my comments on their Chamber Music America panel discussion are here) be present in their audiences as well?
We live in iPod shuffle times. For those living life without small music player, filled with all sorts of different music tracks, the “shuffle” feature will, at your request, play individual pieces, movements, songs, etc., in random order. I found it annoying as hell when I first turned it on by accident, and rarely use it myself. But millions of (mostly younger) people love it. What are you going to hear next? It’s a surprise. That’s the fun of it.
And so why not a club, like LPR, serving as an institutional shuffle device? Show up and take what you get. Maybe–perhaps even preferably–something you wouldn’t have chosen on your own.
Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.
*I wasn’t recording that conversation, so it’s reconstructed from memory. But I’m quite sure I have the gist of it right.