A few days past I mentioned (in very small type) that the Crimson Pirates were going to audition for a chance to busk at South Street Seaport . We knew we wouldn't have our full contingent. Most importantly, we'd be missing our guitarist. To that end, Robin picked a few songs that would show one or more of our strengths: arrangement, percussion, harmonies. As the audition neared, things changed. Robin's job went all pear shaped and she had to devote crazy amounts of energy to averting implosion. We found out that one of our strongest singers couldn't make the call. In addition, it was strongly suggested that being loud was discouraged (which: 1. weird, since there's a sizable space outside by the water upon which to perform so you'd think small and soft wouldn't be desirable and 2. our percussion is sort of awesome, so fuck!). Long story slightly less long, the day before we were going to go up before the judges we'd had to rule out many of our strongest, most energetic and engaging songs.
On to Friday. I’ll be honest with you - I was not feeling all that keen about the audition. Still, I love this group and I’d said I’d be there, so there I would be. In the interest of keeping the amount of gear I had to haul in to a minimum, I wore tights and my thigh-high pirate boots with a simple cotton dress. That way, I only had to carry my shirt, bodice and skirt in my bag. “Oh, Kelly,” thought I. “the cleverness of you!”
To which the weather replied, “RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! TORRENTIAL FREAKING RAIN! p.s. have a nice day.”
From the moment I stepped out of the WTC PATH station, my world was one of water. Rainfall, runoff, up-splash. I had an umbrella (I’m sparing you my rant about umbrella use in Manhattan), so my head stayed dry but my boots and socks and tights were soaked within fifteen seconds of my setting foot upon the sidewalk. Not a minute later, the skirt of my dress was utterly drenched. I sloshed along, trying to find my way to the Seaport. Were it sunny and dry, I’d have had no worries. As it was, though, I was squelching along in the portable puddles that were once my best leather boots, not entirely sure of my location in regards to my destination. It took far longer than it ought to have done, but at last I made it to the Seaport. At that precise moment, Don called to see where I was that we might meet up. I devolved into hysterical female. “It hurts to walk! I can barely take a step! I hate this. I hate it!!!” Now, I’d not eaten since about nine that morning, and at this point it was five in the afternoon. Even so, I was beyond pathetic. The good news was that thanks to the inclement weather, the auditions were going to be held inside on the third floor of the Pier 17 Mall. Don suggested that once we’d signed up and secured our spot (number 50, as it happened), we set out to buy me a new pair of boots. “I’ll be fine,” I lied. Badly.
“Your shoes and socks are soaked. That’s how you get trenchfoot,” Don snapped.
The mists of self pity parted briefly. “I’m pretty sure it takes more than an hour,” I replied.
“You’re getting new shoes,” my beloved growled.
Yet another long story only slightly less long, I ended up buying blissfully dry socks and a pair of pseudo-Chucks that actually looked sort of awesome with my pirate garb (which, by the bye, was distressingly damp from the aforementioned up-splash into my Strand bag. I’m a big fan of rain and storms, but this was just ridiculous).
So. Back to the audition. We straggled in and found one another bit by bit and got our number/slot. The folks running the audition sort of separated musical acts from magicians/dancers/living statues/etc. in the interest of letting those who needed to haul instruments about have a clear shot at the stage. Each act had five minutes, tops. If you were a musical group, they only wanted to hear one song. That was three minutes or slightly more to make an impression, to wow the audience and the judges. There were maybe ten or twelve acts before us, so we had a bit of time to regroup and change into our (in my case, rain soaked) costumes.
The first act was a percussion and brass group: bold, tight, energetic. They were fully awesome, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t get a busker’s slot. But the most important thing about their audition was that they made us realize that the ‘don’t be loud’ stipulation was, clearly, ridiculous. Fortunately, Don and Dan had brought a number of drums despite the fact we hadn’t planned on needing them. Ann suggested a new (for the full group) song. It doesn’t showcase our full range of vocals, but it’s got kick ass lyrics, solid women’s voices and driving percussion from the guys. Everyone was, awesomely, on board with the changes. There was no ego. It was all about setting forward something entertaining, something strong. We ran the vocals once, out on the deck, and then waited. And waited. And waited. And as number 48 was finishing up, 49 turned to us and said, “We’re not ready.”
Then we were on stage, the women clustered around one mic, the guys manning their drums. Four strong beats and Robin started singing. Then Ann joined in. Then me. The drums layered in. The harmonies built, bit by bit, and then in the fourth verse we split into full three part and the drums swelled and we were all so completely locked in.** I couldn’t see the judges from where I stood, but I could see part of the audience and I could see the little girl at the back standing on her chair, dancing.
It’s always a joy to play for our amazing fans, for those who have supported us these many years and enjoy our old standards as well as any new material we bring along. It’s always a complete surprise to me to realize that we can engage and entertain those who have never heard us. To know that we’re not just about Faire schtick and silliness. We’re pretty frakking good. Whatever may happen, whether we get the gig or not, we rocked.
Then we drank beers and ate sub-par, overpriced pub food at a Pier 17 restaurant. And though my dress was still more wet than damp, my pseudo-Chucks and socks were dry. I was with a group of people I like very well, indeed.
*I sent that post from my iPhone, which ostensibly took a reading as to my current location. Go ahead. Click on it. See where, apparently, I was at that time. I mean, I know I was soaked to the skin, but that's ridiculous...
**not that the guys in the band read this, save crimsontom, but you were brilliant. completely listening to each other and to us and locking in so HARD. it was a joy. just so’s you know.