Monday, December 29, 2008 at 7 a.m.
Friday night's Living Room Series singer-songwriter lineup at the Meadowlark - which read like a who's who of Denver musicians - drew a predictably seam-bursting crowd to the intimate venue. Of course, had everyone on the bill simply brought a couple of friends, the bar would have easily been at capacity and the showcase would have had the usual mutual admiration society vibe. This, perhaps, was part of the problem.
Of course, the crowd wasn't solely made up of insiders. In fact, at the conclusion of the iconic Joe Sampson's set - during which he harmonized with the noteworthy Nate Rateliff - an older woman called out, "What are your names?" The idea that someone might be getting her first taste of these two towering talents warmed my holiday-hardened heart.
The trouble with the night, however, was kind of like having a Christmas with too many presents - there just might have been too much of a good thing. With a new performer taking the Meadowlark's tiny stage every 10 minutes or so, it was easy to develop a lazy - and even disinterested - attitude toward the performers. After all, it seemed like they were a dime a dozen. Given the cover charge, it was more like 15 cents, but whatever.
This attitude was, perhaps, exacerbated (at least, for me) by the show's occurring on the night after Christmas, when many of those in attendance were desperate for some post-family socializing and drinking, and not particularly inclined to be attentive to even the most talented of the sad bastards (it's worth noting that the lineup was 95% female; what is that about?). The majority of the crowd was focused far more on talking, drinking and blowing off some holiday steam than they were on the brave, brilliant souls who poured out their hearts, however briefly. Speaking for myself, I think I only really paid attention to maybe five of the folks who played. The rest provided some of the highest quality background music I could ever choose to accompany my stir crazy carousing.
Anyone who knows me knows that I frequently preach about having an attitude of abundance, the notion that there's plenty of everything - whatever you might value - for everyone, and then some. It's an attitude that I believe leads to both generosity of spirit and fulfillment of dreams. However, there's a competing notion in economics that just might have been proven right on Friday night. It is the notion that scarcity - or even the illusion of scarcity - can dramatically increase the perceived value of a given commodity. On Friday night, there was no illusion of scarcity; there was only a surfeit, a surplus, a bumper crop, a glut of extremely talented, intensely committed and criminally underappreciated musicians, which lowered the perceived value of each of them.
I love the idea of the Living Room Series and fully support everything that it stands for. Unfortunately, I think the seemingly endless parade of performers undermines the ultimate purpose, which is to bring attention to our town's troubadours - both budding and in full bloom. Next time, I'd recommend a trickle approach - book a few singer-songwriters each Thursday night between now and spring. Either that or move the whole shebang to a coffee shop where folks - myself included - would be more likely to sit down, shut up and take notice of the abundance surrounding them. --Eryc Eyl