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Stay at home and enjoy The Human Jukebox online

Initial gig 25th March 2020

As soon as the Government advised people to stay away from restaurants and bars my work began to get cancelled and, by the time the time they announced that venues were being instructed to close, all of the regular engagements I had, had been taken out of my diary. With the “close” announcement the few spring/summer functions I had in my diary were also wiped out.

Over the last few years, I have been very lucky and seen plenty of work coming in. I have always known how much I love performing, however what I never realised was, was that for me performing is an emotional need rather than a just job that I love.

Within only a few days of my “empty diary period” commencing, I knew that I had to do something to scratch the not performing  itch that was severely irritated me.

On the telly I watched the beautiful and talented Italian entertainers delighting their neighbours by performing on their balconies, I could not copy them because I live at the end of a cul-de-sac in a small private road and my house is in the corner (my windows and door are not overlooked).

I then saw on the news, a clip of Spanish police officers driving into a residential area with sirens howling and lights flashing, the officers jumped out of their cars and (instead of arresting people), one started to play an acoustic guitar and sing while the others danced. The local residents at their windows and doors were delighted. If only I lived in Spain, and I was a policeman and I had a police car everything would be fixed for me, but alack-and-alas I do not, I am not and, I don’t have one.

I then came up with a brain wave that would demonstrate my kindness, impress my mum and feed my performing habit. My mum lives very close by in sheltered accommodation, the flats are built around a gated court-yard, the flats have balconies, I thought I had found my stage. It’s lock-down so I have a captive audience of appreciative pensioners!

I called my mum and told her of my intention to approach the manager of the property to see if she would agree to an impromptu Rat-pack style performance one afternoon. I would sing for free. My mum listened to my idea, however, rather than the gleeful response that I had expected, she somewhat embarrassingly told me that she thought it was not such a good idea. Some of her neighbours would be incredibly delighted that I performed for them, not because they wanted to be entertained but  because then they could be highly critical and take great joy in being snide. So no performance for the pensioners.

I realised it was not just the performing I missed, but it was also the interaction with people, most of who are lovely. One of my residencies was a regular Wednesday night engagement performing in a City of London wine-bar. I performed (and it was there that I introduced) my Human Jukebox act, this is an act where the punters choose all the songs that I sing.

The wine bar is up a flight of stairs and tiny, the owner is wonderful woman (and a music lover), the manageress is magically magnificent,  the pay is OK , and my vocal folds are frequently and generously lubricated with Malbec. Wednesday nights were always a night that I looked forward to.  The gig was an early start so started with very few people in attendance, they were the same regular crowd, each with their own very, very individual characteristics and collectively just a delightful group of people (who always picked great songs for me to sing), I truly love them all.

As my Wednesday evening performances progressed, strangers passing below the window would hear the music then come and join us in the bar. By 8:30 the tempo of the music sped up in conjunction with the pace of the wine consumption, and the event often ended like a Saturday night party, with slightly over refreshed punters dancing and sining along (some danced good, and sang good some not so good).

So my idea (to save my sanity) was why not take my Human Jukebox on-line? With the help of my daughter I created an event on Facebook, we would invite people to logon, choose their songs and watch me perform them.
Initially my plan was to provide a slick rehearsed performance with PA, lights, backing tracks, microphones, effects boxes and all filmed by a good camera. As it turned out, the “slick thing” idea with lots of professional kit got thrown out. I decided (to the joy of my daughter) the act was to be just me sitting at my desk in front of my computer singing with nothing but my acoustic guitar.

Yesterday (during the day) I up-loaded a song list to Facebook so that when people logged on they could select their songs. I expected maybe ½ dozen people would actually logon and join my Wednesday night gathering, so I thought I would need to pad out the play list with songs of my own choosing. A couple of hours before the event my daughter called me and asked me if I had seen the requests that were on my Facebook page (I hadn’t) she told me that she thought I should look at them and reply to the comments. I logged on, and saw (what I thought was) all the requests (3 of them). I replied and went back to watching the telly. Within 10 minutes or so my daughter called again and asked me when I was going to reply to the comments/requests, I told her that I had. She then explained to me that the 3 comments I had seen, were just the comments that were displayed on the bottom of a long list. When I logged back on, I found there were dozens and dozens of comments/requests and they were not only on the event page but attached to photos, as private messages and even sent as e-mails.

My scheduled 1 hour slot now had enough requested material to fill over 3 hours.

At 8pm I went live, and from the “comment” column I could see that within minutes loads and loads and loads of people joined me, some I knew, many I didn’t. They made requests, they sent emojis, they said hi to one another, joked with one another,  chatted, they said nice things to me, and to one another.  Although I couldn’t see I have been told we also had lots of at home drinking, sining along and dancing. It was like being out working, my itch (for a while) has been scratched.

If you were a part of it last night thank you so very much for joining me. I know it was not a slick, rehearsed performance, I know that I need to learn how to control the technology, I know that I probably should explain better what the event is, and how to connect to it and next time things will be better ……
However what I know most of all is, that, 
you and people like you, make my life really, really good, fun, fulfilled, valuable and worthwhile.

I am going to reply to all your comments/messages/requests as soon as I can find them all. It’s a job I am looking forward to.

Please stay at home, keep your-self safe and join me again soon (I plan another on-line Human Jukebox performance newt week.  Gordon.


About Tobias. A. Hogg

My daughter, my nephew, Christian Scientist actors and now even my 80 something mum are all doing it and I have decided to have a go. My intention is to record things that intrigue or amuse me and the source of my experiences is probably going to be centred around my chosen profession gigging singer, but who knows what future blogs may bring.

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