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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » What happened, was this... » » The Worst Gig Ever! (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Donal Chayce
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Profile of Donal Chayce
Although it wasn't a kids show, this was by far the worst gig I've ever had.

Many, many years ago I was booked to open for a Cheap Trick concert at a nightclub in Tempe, Arizona, which is a big college (ASU) town. Problem was, there was no mention of an opening act in any of the advertising or PR materials for the concert, not even on the club marquee, so as far as the audience knew the band would be the only performers.

Comes show time, the lights dim, my pre-recorded music track begins and the crowd begins to whistle and cheer. As I make my entrance, a live, offstage announcer introduces me and, as if on cue (come to think of it, it was a cue of sorts), the audience abruptly stops cheering. A beat or two later a low, angry buzz begins to ripple through the crowd, and I knew that I was in BIG trouble. As I finished my my opening routine (some silk and lit candle manipulation), there was a smattering of applause, but then the catcalls started.

My hunch is that a large number of audience members had ingested recreational substances and, having timed the intake of those substances to be in sync with when they thought the band would begin performing, they were disappointed, angry and even a bit panicked. In any case, it was painfully clear that the crowd did not come to see a magician, even a "hippie magician" (which, ala Doug Henning, I was in those days). Their hostility was palpable, and fearing for my safety (I'm only somewhat joking here), I cut the 20 minutes for which I'd been booked to barely 6 minutes by immediately going into my closer (the Zombie) and got off stage pronto.

The booking manager rushed up to me backstage and began to rebuke me for not performing for the full 20 minutes as we had agreed. I was furious that the audience hadn't been prepped for an opening act, and I was angry with myself for letting the hecklers get to me the way that they did, and so I cut him off by snapping back, "DON'T talk to me!", raising and pointing my finger (my forefinger) inches from his face for emphasis. I suspect that I looked and sounded like a crazy man, because he stopped his admonishment mid-sentence (his mouth was literally hanging open) then turned and walked away without saying another word.

I figured I had blown my fee and, truthfully, I was so rattled that I didn't care. As it turned out, I was not only paid my fee in full, but the next day I also got a call from an executive for the band's recording label (I can't remember his name, but I recall that he was with Epic records), in which which he apologized for the publicity snafu and offered to make amends by giving me a slew of albums (LPs--this was the 70s, after all) of my choice from their extensive catalog. I took him up on his offer, and I still have most of those albums.

For the record, the guys in the band--and Rick Nielsen especially--were great to me both before the show and after the sudden end of my performance. To their credit they didn't add insult to injury by joking about my predicament during their performance.

Very soon after my Cheap Trick fiasco, I canceled a booking I already had to open for another (local) band, even though my opening spot had been included in the advertising for that show. I recommended a friend as a replacement, they booked him and he gave a great performance. But for me, that experience turned me off of performing "rock magic" for the rest of my life.
Faizimran
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I have seen a lot of magicians to shows for kids and the kids just start screaming methods out and I feel bad for the magician because they do the trick flawlessly but the kids have seen it revealed on YouTube so they ruin it or everyone and embarrass the magician.
malaki
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Profile of malaki
Crowd management is the solution.

I too have had issues with doing kid's shows, but like anything else, you learn from your experiences. When booking the show, make sure that the parents know that you are an entertainer, not a baby sitter (in other words, they are still responsible for their kids). Try to look at it from the kid's point of view. If I see that the kid's are going to try to Google everything that I do, you have to redirect their attention. I ask them to put their phones down, because if they are surfing the net, they might miss something. If they start trying to yell out the method, I tell them that what they are about to see is a presentation of illusions, some of which have secrets that are thousands of years old. If you know the secret, great - but let's not spoil the fun for everyone else. After all, their parents might not know how it is done, and they might like to enjoy the show. Keep things on a positive note and above all, as Douglas Adams points out in big, friendly letters, DON'T PANIC.

Another way to deal with a single kid who seems to want to heckle is to present him with a puzzle (I say him, for it is quite rare for the girls to give much trouble). I keep a collection of ring and string puzzles in my bag for just such an occasion. I will show the puzzle, then I will work it, behind my hand in front of them without tipping the secret. Then I hand the puzzle to the problem child and ask him to solve it. Check back from time to time to see his progress. Most of the time he will get distracted from the puzzle by watching the show. If he starts up again, I ask him for a progress report. This is rare.

Above all, try not to get aggravated with the kids. We are professionals. Do not allow the kids to drag you down to their level.
It is very much like dealing with a group of people who have drunk too much. Like the kids, they become rude and unruly, so you must deal with the problem child while retaining your professionalism. Nothing else that you could do will make you look good in the eyes of the audience, or those who hired you.

Do not leave your apparatus where the kids can get to it. That is why I work out of a bag. I can open it to get the next item and close it again to keep prying eyes/fingers where they belong. Find someone trying to get into the bag? Tell them to be careful, for there are items in the bag that may turn them into a newt, and you did not bring the antidote with you.

During a show that I was doing At the Medieval Fair, I was performing the linking rings. I am always careful of to whom I hand out the examinable rings, but sometimes they get passed around. I happened to catch, out of the corner of my eye, a guy who had gotten hold of the three rings and was in the process of putting his foot into one of my 10 inch rings to apply more pressure. I instantly stopped, and with a raised finger, I loudly stated "Hold!" The entire audience focussed their attention on me and this guy who was about to act up. I then said "Let's not do that. Could you please hand those rings to me?" I defused the situation and recovered my rings before any damage was done, continuing the show. It cut about three minutes off of the routine, but it kept me from spending money on a new set of rings. The Guy, BTW, was one of the adults in the audience.

You are the magician. You are the master/director of the show. You take the audience where you want them to go. If some stray, you have to lead them back. AND you have to do so with a professional attitude.

Believe me, when I was first learning how to deal with an audience, I had shows that literally made me contemplate giving up magic. It is similar to getting POed at your computer - you have to get over the frustration, anger and feeling of helplessness and ask yourself "What did I do wrong? What is the proper command/solution? How could I have handled that better?" Read books on behavior and child psychology - it works on adults too.
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