I am asked this question a lot: "How does New York compare to California?"
Funny, I am never asked how places compare to Iowa. For those of you that attend live shows, you know my issue with Iowa. Two words people: Tractor Pull.
Here is my experience with California and my opinion has not changed since becoming a resident, either.
Californians are laid back. I, however, am not. Now, with some wine I am able to achieve a 'relaxed state', but I could never call myself laid back. I think I tried once and my mother said, "No way, Vicky. No. Way." So, as a performer with such a 'relaxed' audience you can feel as if you are not connecting and folks, that is not a good feeling. It's like you are a zoo animal and everyone is staring at you strangely as if viewing a unique creature in it's natural habitat. However, after performances these same people tend to be very generous and genuine. They just aren't overtly excited like say, a Texas crowd would be.
I can't believe I have lived here for eight months and haven't done a live show yet. I've had offers but between my hubby's work schedule and hiring new babysitters for our daughter, it has been more of a challenge that I originally thought it would be. I do have a house concert next weekend in the East Bay and I am really looking forward to it.
As for New York City, from a performer's perspective, it still has my vote. I'm pretty sure this is because of the The Living Room and my experience there. I am so thankful the booking folks allowed me to grow an audience there and hone my skills as a songwriter on their stage. It is located on the Lower East Side in Manhattan among other small music clubs, restaurants and clothing boutiques. Once you pass through the door, there is a long bar and at the end of the bar is a set of heavy, burgundy curtains. After you cross the threshold from the bar into the 'living room' it is quiet. Very quiet.
On the stage sits a grand piano. The lights are dimmed with small candles illuminated on every table. It sets a mood. The mood is for the audience to sit back and listen. There is no better place for a songwriter to do what they do than on this stage.
I can distinctly remember my first email from the booking agent offering me a slot for a weeknight show. It was shortly after I moved to NYC in the winter of 2006. I didn't know many people so my hubby reached out to his buddies at work and friends of friends around the US sent their fellow New Yorkers to the show. It was a small crowd and man, I was so nervous. I don't think I stopped shaking until the third or fourth song. Probably when I sat behind the piano is when I calmed down. Was it my best performance there? Absolutely not, but I learned from the experience and vowed to get better.
You may ask, "Aren't all performances created equal?" I'll be honest. No, they are not. I think most performers really strive to bring their A-game to each audience. However, there are nights when the audience is chatty, or the sound guy has your vocal turned too far up or down, or you lack focus from touring. But, there are nights when the stars align and everything falls exactly into place. The sound is perfect, the audience is engaged, you are playing your music exactly the way you should be. These are thing nights I live for and when it happens, I can't wait to speed to my next show and do it again. And again.
It will be interesting to see in six months how the NYC and California challenge continues to measures up.