Monday, September 28, 2009

Out on the Downtown Mall

Anika Holloway

Having a rather dull Saturday night, I decided then was a better time than any to hear some tunes and chat with friends. Following the crowd of people and the flow of the music, we soon found ourselves approaching Miller’s restaurant/ bar. The place was packed, just as expected for a Saturday night, forcing us to take a seat at a table right outside the door where we were still in plain sight of the band and audience members closest to the front. The band, known as The Fustics, played an assortment of songs within a genre they call Americana, named for its combination of traditional American music (jazz, folk, country, rock, blues, and funk).

Before exiting, I was able to skim the area and locate the general characteristics of audience members inside as they enjoyed the tunes. Overall, the people on the inside seated at tables and at the bar were mostly middle aged and white, with a pretty good proportion of men and women. There were however, a few ethnic minorities sprinkled across the restaurant. Taking our seats outside, I was able to also scope out other people seated within range of the restaurant and able to hear the music. I noticed that the younger customers tended to congregate outside and while some were attentive to the music, others cared less about it. Some were engaged in deep conversation, while others just mellowed out (looked buzzed) and enjoyed their cocktails in the night air. There were also those in clear view through the restaurant front window who appeared to be having the “time of their lives”, as they danced with a drink in one hand and the other in the air along with releasing loud screams and hollers as each song came to an end.

The band’s response to the audience was a bit different. This may have been due to the limited amount of space provided by the small staging area, but the lead guitarist/ vocalist was the only one who made any type of connections with the audience. As the band played, each musician appeared to be in “their own worlds”. No time was spent with them acknowledging each other, other than during intermission when my friends and I were able to meet the band and were given hilarious, informal introductions of each by the drummer Ron with two N’s (he insisted that I note his name had two N’s in it). There were 4 band members: Ronn on the drums, Brad on vocals and acoustic guitar, Calloway on guitar, and Paul aka. “The Professor” on the bass (named from position as director of theatre at UNC). Not a local band, originally from Wilmington, NC., they have spent the past 4 years filtering different instrumentalist in and out, playing with 4 other guitarist and bassist, yet ending up with their current arrangement. Despite the lack of diversity in the audience, the group had a nice twist. Their Peruvian guitarist Calloway and the authentically Italian Professor Paul, with his fluid accent, as well as American vocalist/guitarist and drummer Brad and Ronn with their free spirited personalities, added a little flavor to band’s makeup.

Still able to recall the sounds freely flowing from the band, I recall the howl of the guitars, the crashes of the drums and the accented melodies of the vocalist, as they bumped out a funk/jazz mix. Breaking it down on the bass, The Professor closed his eyes (sometimes he turned his back to the others and played facing the store front) and caressed his instrument, playing a bass line in sync with Ronn on the drums. As Ronn held down the tempo, stomping his bass drum, tapping his snare, and wailing away on his cymbals, Calloway swung his hair and danced with his guitar. Finally, Lead guitar/vocalist Brad occasionally let go of his guitar to do a few gestures as the women danced there in front of him. Over the two hours I spent there, we were able to hear the best of their jazz/funk/rock mixes, meet the band and enjoy a nice cocktail 

In closing, I would like to say that I consciously witnessed a few of the associations between gender and music that we often discuss in class. Having an all male band that plays music from a variety of genres, coincidently creating their own genre, Americana, only solidifies the observation of men dominating the music/entertainment industry. They were able to come to Charlottesville and be widely accepted by the townspeople, as the majority of them jammed to their tunes. Furthermore, women appeared to gravitate toward them more then the men as their confirmation that they were playing exceptionally well, as they (the women) danced and hollered to them craving their sounds and attention and the men observed from their seats. This was a very realistic rendition of what happens in musical performances where male artist/ musicians have dancers and actors dressy in rags and fabric pieces prancing about or straggling themselves all over them as though the men are walls and they are picture frames . I also was able to draw this conclusion from the fact that Ronn approached OUR table (we did not start conversation with him) and asked us how we were enjoying the music and commented on our physical appearances (politely), while I did not see any of them approach any men. So, I think this serves as evidence of and supports beliefs that ideals of male domination and female subordination/ objectification is still alive and well in music.

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