In the creative world, sometimes it is hard to predict mass public appeal. Generally you would think that the most talented, versatile and experienced artists with the widest array of canvases upon which they project their work should be the most heralded. But that is not always the case.
I can only speak from personal experience, and my experience is with music – more specifically – bands. And this past weekend of music at the Purple Fiddle is a perfect example of audience ambiguity.
Prior to our two weekend shows, I was feeling sorry for the Saturday night band having to follow the Friday night performance by Steppin’ In It. Steppin’ In It has so much talent and is more versatile than any other band I have ever seen. Consider that four band members play all these instruments during a live performance – guitar, upright bass, lap steel guitar, harmonicas, accordian, trumpet, trombone, dobro, mandolin, banjo and percussion. They weave in-and-out of an array of genres of music – folk, blues, pop, old-time, western swing, jazz, zydeco, and bluegrass. Combine that with the fact that Steppin’ In It has made an appearance on Mountain Stage (live performance radio broadcast to 120 stations worldwide), is raved about at festivals and in the press around the country, and you would think that they would grab a huge crowd on Friday night. In most cases such a grand show would kill the next night’s business. Not the case on Saturday.
Dangermuffin, the Saturday band, is comparatively a one-dimensional band in relation to Steppin’ In It. They have three musicians who always play the same three instruments – guitar, bass and drums – a typical power trio in the rock world.
But these guys were anything but radio-rock and anything but typical. Their groove and their lyrics are constant and infectious, as evidenced by the large gyrating dance crowd that appeared early in front of the stage. These guys touch a nerve, the giggly-dance nerve and everyone responds.
There is little doubt that Steppin’ In It has the more sophisticated, and bigger sound and perhaps even superior talent. But there were 140 persons that cajoled and participated in the Dangermuffin show. That was nearly double Steppin’ In It’s crowd. You cannot argue with the numbers. These guys have popular appeal right now.
Creating amazing art is one thing, but appealing to the masses is another. It is a very elusive and strange beast – the appeal to the popular masses. It is unpredictable and can arrive in a flash and leave just as quickly. And difficult as it is to catch hold of, artists constantly try, but mostly they are lucky if they will catch one wild wave even if just for a few lightning flashes of time. If you can ever be among these few lucky ones in the art world, then cherish the brief and crazy ride.