The Band: Bob Schneider, Thursday February 23 2012. Schneider, a singer/songwriter from Austin, has a cult following by funny women bloggers, with Laurie Writes and Wendi Aarons leading the “Have you seen him play yet?” charge. He’s a big deal in Austin’s vibrant and crowded music scene, winning 24 Austin Music Awards going back to 1999. His funk-country-rock-folk sound tends toward adults-only subject matter, and with that head of hair and bedroom eyes, you can see why Sandy Bullock took him on as a project.
The Venue: My home office, by way of StageIt. Remember how all my February/March concert plans got screwed up? I was running out of February when I remembered StageIt, which promises “A Front Row Seat to a Backstage Experience.” It’s a website where you can sign up to watch a show streamed live to your computer for a nominal cost (I think I paid $5.) Lo and behold, Bob was playing on a night when I didn’t have to drive anyone to ballet, and my doctor-prescribed* monthly concert date was set.
The best part of the home office setting? No lines for the bathroom, unlimited Trader Joe’s Rice N’ Bean chips, and I didn’t even have to put on shoes.
The Company: At various points during the show: a fifth grader needing advice on a Colonial Day report (“What is the plural of brick shop? Shop, or shoppes?”), a German Shorthaired Pointer seeking my undivided attention, and a pizza delivery guy who I specifically requested NOT arrive until 15 minutes after the show was scheduled to end. Mostly, just me and my new cocktail, a Blanc Burke.
The Crowd: Approximately 200 total strangers, all sitting at their home computers, and making good use of the StageIt “FanChat” function by typing their favorite song title in ALL CAPS, then hitting Copy, Paste, Copy, Paste infinity times. Fans can “tip” the artist in StageIt Notes that cost $0.10 each, and there was one guy who tipped Bob one note at a time, throughout the entire performance.
Oh, and here’s what an audience singalong looks like on StageIt, for “Honeypot” (click on the screenshot to enlarge:)
The Opening Act: N/A. StageIt promises nothing if not an efficient fan experience. You’re basically mainlining the musician.
Age Humiliation Factor: Depends which of my alibis resonates more.
On the one hand, StageIt represents a bleeding edge digital counterpart to analog concert performances, combining aspects of multimedia broadcast, social networking, and crowd-sourced funding for underpaid artists via the Notes function. Who says I’m falling behind in technology?
On the other hand, the knowledge that I could watch a full concert, have time to wash the breakfast dishes festering in the sink, draft the PTA Walkathon press release, see “Modern Family,” and STILL be in bed by 9:30 pm? Highly appealing.
Cool Factor: Not so much.
Bob may be all kinds of cool, but let’s face it: we were watching a dude play a guitar from his bedroom. Admittedly, he had Carlos the Tech Support Guy on hand to resolve technical difficulties (of which there were none – nice job, StageIt.) But I imagine it’s a little off-putting for an artist used to give-and-take with the crowd to sit in an empty room and sing into a computer monitor, even if there are teens doing it on YouTube all day long.
Worth Hiring the Sitter? I kind of wish I’d been forced to.
Bob Schneider is great, totally worth the blogger hype, combining appealing melodies, touching and funny lyrics, and great guitar licks with a strong, honest voice. He gives good patter, of the R-rated motormouth variety, and you know Mama loves her stage patter. I’m obviously late to the party here, but if you like Robert Earl Keen, the BoDeans, or Amos Lee, give him a listen. His 2011 album A Perfect Day is on constant rotation right now, and I’m looking forward to doing the backstroke through his older stuff.
But I have a confession to make. Given that I spend all day multitasking at my computer, I didn’t find it easy to shut that impulse down. Here is a partial list of things I did while “watching” Bob play: resolved a PayPal dispute. Proofread an upcoming blog post. Input husband’s travel dates into my Outlook calendar. Checked to see if some pants I want to buy are on sale yet. Looked up the plural of Shop vs. Shoppes in Colonial America.
As much as I appreciated StageIt for giving me a bite sized piece of Bob, and doing it in a way that worked for my overpacked schedule, it reminded me when I go to a show, I really want to be swept away – by the artist, the crowd, and the venue. That “live” and Live are two different things. That sometimes, having to hire the sitter is the whole damn point.
Bob deserves undivided attention, and we midlife concert goers deserve a chance to give it.
*I’m not a doctor, but I play one on my blog.