Are you ready for Story Time with St. Eloise? I am, so here we go!
This past Wednesday I played a show at a rooftop hotel bar and encountered a record number of… interesting interactions, to say the least. Aside from very enthusiastic kid dancers, the man scaling the Trump tower, and an extremely passionate Greek businessman, there was one moment in particular that stuck with me I will always remember.
I was in the final set of my three-hour gig. Three hours was a long time to sing, even with breaks, so when two boys who looked eighteen or twenty came up requesting Kanye West, I felt justified in my curt “I don’t do requests.”
[Side note: “breaks” at gigs are not a real thing. People want to talk. I am fine if you want to talk at me, but don’t be offended if I just sip water and listen and smile and nod. Because to be honest, if I still have two more hours to sing, I probably don’t want to do a lot of talking right now.]
So! Back to the last of my sets.
I was feeling (again, just honesty here) a bit annoyed by the persistent, “Sing Kanye West!” They were a group of three, with the third kid sitting to the side, waving off his friend’s requests to join them in front of my keyboard. The two dancers just made faces at him and kept dancing. Well, I assume they would have called it dancing.
Flash forward to the end of my set.
“Can we get a picture with you?” the dancer kids begged. I didn’t move towards them and they inched closer. “Just one picture! Can we take just one picture with you!?”
I nodded. “Just one!” They got a photo, and when one kid didn’t like the way he looked and wanted another, I pulled diva card and denied him a second chance.
“Aw, c’mon,” the kids whined. “You’re like Justin Bieber! No pictures with your fans!”
I shook my head and smiled. “I said one picture! You were okay with that. I gotta pack up now.” I began turning away.
“Wait, can I get one picture with you?” a dude-bro stood to my right, holding his phone out to the man who’d taken the kids photo. He looked at me with a hopeful smile. “Just one?”
I may have rolled my eyes. I really hope I didn’t, but I may have. I stepped back over towards him. “Sure! …Just one.” Pose, smile, flash.
“Thank you,” he said, shaking my hand. I smiled at him and quickly turned away from what appeared to be two more bros heading my direction. Kneeling down, I began packing up my cords and keyboard.
“I think you’re really good,” a voice to my right pronounced. I looked up. It was the third non-dancing kid, sitting on an ottoman next to my keyboard.
“Thank you very much,” I smiled.
He gazed at the increasingly loud bar crowd. “I think you’re really on the right track. You just gotta keep playing.” He then peppered me with questions about music, venues, and music business. I wondered how he ended up seeming so much more mature than his peers. As I wrapped up my last cord, he gave me a final encouraging, “I think you’re really good.”
I zipped up my keyboard bag. “Thank you,” I said, standing. “Thanks for the kind words.”
He nodded and I walked away.
I had made it about two blocks when I realized I’d gone the wrong direction. I walked back a block and stood at the corner, waiting for a green light. I felt a light tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me,” said the non-dancer maybe 20-something kid. He was slightly breathless as he opened his wallet. “I wanted to give you this, because I felt like people weren’t really appreciating how good you were.” He handed me $20. “Do you want another one?” His fingers wavered over another twenty-dollar bill.
I felt the stares of the few people gathered at the light.
“Oh my gosh, no!” I stammered. “One is more than enough!”
He shrugged slightly and stared at his hands. “Yeah, I just wanted to give you that because I don’t think people were listening. You’re really good. And I just wanted you to know that. Because I don’t think people were appreciating how good you are.”
I stared at him. He’d followed me out of the hotel and down a block to relay that message? “Well… Thank you so much!” I smiled big. “Really, thank you so much.”
The light turned green.
“Yep!” the kid nodded, turned around and walked off.
I decided the people at the light probably couldn’t care less about our interaction. I took off in the correct direction and wasn’t sure if I’d start crying, or just keep smiling so big.
My initial reaction in the venue was to entirely dismiss the third kid by association with his friends. They were young, they were pester-y, and they were definitely out of their zone in the midst of the 30 and 40-somethings crammed in and around the hotel bar. The Bieber dig was uncalled for, and so was their dancing.
But how beautiful was this moment stemmed from the least expected place?
He wasn’t wrong about the crowd. People didn’t hate the music, I received about fifteen “Your voice is beautiful!” fly-by’s … but nobody was there for St. Eloise. Luckily, 90% of the time I am perfectly okay with this.
However, when someone, completely unexpectedly, goes far out of their way to make sure you understand they appreciated you and your art, that really stands out. That really, really sticks with you.
That’s why when I say I appreciate your comments, your letters, emails, and especially your presence at my shows, I REALLY mean it! It’s unexpected. It stands out. YOU stand out. It’s beautiful. And I will never forget.
Thank you, non-dancing kid whose name I don’t even know. Your effort to make sure your message was clear moved me. You are encouraging more than you know. Thank you.