Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tiny Bubbles, in the Ice...

On Friday I broke out my flip flops, pinned a flower in my hair, donned a lei, and traded in my cabin fever for island fever. Or, at least that was the plan.

Not a bad plan really. Winter’s gotten to that long stretch with a few days that hover around freezing and sunlight that tantalizes icicles into dripping, only to return to a fresh dose of snow and icy winds the next. So, a nice break from the cold with a contrived Wisconsin Luau seemed just what the doctor ordered. Getting to go to a luau for free as a member of the band (yes, the phrase, “I’m with the band” is a great door opener), even better.

The luau was a local performing art center’s first attempt at a late-winter fundraiser, and again, good in theory, though apparently not so great in practice. They contracted with the award-winning barbeque and rib house across the street to smoke up a couple whole pigs (complete with apples in the mouth), so the menu was fine, and they roped in our newly-formed dance band (made up of members of the community band that practices and performs in the center) to play big band music for dancing after. So far, so good.

But then there was a complete failure to market beyond their audiences, other than a few posters hung around the area. Then, there was the price: $35 per person in advance, $40 at the door. So, for a couple (pretty much a prerequisite for swing dancing), it would be $80 for dinner and a dance. Even that might not be so bad, except for $80, I would expect to be seated at a table filled with fine china and served four full courses by a sexy young thing in a cummerbund and tuxedo, fundraiser or no. Especially since the band was getting paid in food only - heck, I would hope a bottle of wine would be thrown in.

In the week before the big night, word came down that ticket pre-sales had been dismal and there would, in all likelihood, be leftovers. My ticket in and meal would be free, but as they were desperate to fill seats, I cut a deal to buy one ticket if I could bring along two more people who would do some eating and some dancing.

And it’s a good thing I did. In all, there were maybe 30 people there, not including the nine of us in the band, the volunteers and the restaurant serving staff. All of them, it seemed, were in some way intimately connected with the center. All probably would’ve just forked over the $40 apiece as a goodwill gesture and saved them the trouble of printing and distributing posters, making too much food and dragging tables into the hall.

Yet, they gamely put up with an evening of vaguely luau-ish activities and overpriced raffles. They also hung around long enough for us to actually play through our entire program, save for the last set of three songs which accompanied the folding of table cloths and tables. My conscripted dancers did their duty as one third of the couples on the dance floor for most of the evening. At then end they distributed the copious amounts of leftovers - for $30 per doggy bag.

The food was really good, the band received rave reviews, and the atmosphere was rather festive. I really enjoyed playing and the view from the bandstand, though the downside to that is I didn’t get to do any dancing.

I really hope that they reconsider their model for the next time (if there is a next time), halve or even quarter their ticket prices, charge for the food, and then advertise the heck out of the thing (ever heard of the free PSAs on the radio? How about the community events calendars? Facebook? Seriously, Facebook, people), get a haul of raffle items and sell cheap tickets, and continue to convince our not-for-profit band to sing for their supper. I know a lot of people who would come then. This really could be good, folks.

That will help heat up this frozen tundra. And defrost my poor toes.

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