I’ve been finding old photos (posted a few here last week) of the old “World Music and Dance Night” shows that il Troubadore used to do at Deano’s Vino (a wine bar and restaurant) in Indianapolis some years ago and was reminded of some good times from bygone days.
For a few years (2005-2007) on the second Friday of the month we’d play this event which eventually turned into an average eight to nine hour event (for a while we were also playing the wine tastings every other Wednesday at Deano’s, but those were more laid back and much shorter affairs clocking at four hours or so).
We’d start with a set that ran from 6pm till 9pm. This was the tail end of the dinner crowd and we’d focus on our Italian bel canto tunes and lighter Irish/Celtic, Classical, and Pop tunes. The audience would primarily be diners and peeps who wanted to sample some of the fine wines the restaurant had to offer. The reception was invariably polite with applause after each of the numbers and most people quietly and politely listening. By 9pm (or sometimes closer to 10pm–it varied) we’d take a short break and come back to do the World Music/Dance portion of the event.
So sometime between 9:15 and 10:15 pm we’d come back to play for our next audience which consisted primarily of belly dancers, folk dancers, yoginis, and occasionally modern dancers. This set (or sometimes two sets) would last until midnight or 1am and there would almost invariably be dancing throughout the whole period of time. It was open dance, and we would cycle through the world music and original tunes in 700+ songlist in several dozen languages.
Sometimes there would be a couple dozen dancers up at a time and sometimes there would be “soloists” – especially if we played a tune which was a favorite of the dancer.
Sometime between midnight and 1am we’d take another break and play the last set which occasionally lasted until 3am or so. The audience at this point would be primarily folks coming from other shows or events who want to hit the wine bar or party until the night is over–sometimes some of the world dance fans would stick around for a while as well. As most of these folks would be at the bar in the adjoining room, we’d often unplug and just play acoustically near the bar. The rep here would consist of mostly of pop, rock, disco, metal covers–sometimes tunes we wouldn’t formally know as we often get requests.
While we’ve not been able to re-create the overall environment of those days at Deano’s we’ve managed to maintain a number of monthly or regularly occuring shows over the years at restaurants (e.g. Zorba’s Greek and Middle Eastern Restaurant in Zionsville; Greek Islands Restaurant, and Corner Coffee in Indianapolis; Road to Morocco in Louisville; Cafe Django in Bloomington) with varying levels of success. We’ve found that the night of the week and location can be just as important as the the quality and size of the venue. In 2006 we actually maintained three of the monthly events at the same time, and often our fans would go to all three of them so we had to opportunity to see how the different environments worked and get feedback from our fans about the different atmospheres.
Over the years I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to play regularly with other ethnic groups which had regular gigs at restaurants including the Balkan band, Kermes (based in Bloomington, IN), and the Arabic group, Ahel El Nagam (based in Louisville). I think the biggest value of having regular events like these is the chance to run through a significant proportion of our repertoire on a regular basis–the thing about il Troubadore is that we almost never get a chance to rehearse. When learning new tunes we’ll often just send audio files or scores to each other and often “premiere” them live without an prior rehearsal–the gigs, in effect, became “live rehearsals” and when performing a couple hundred shows a year together, it worked out more often than not.