The Audient Will See You Now
My younger brother Andy used to come to just about every gig I played for about two years. He was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was very young and while it can sometimes be considered a limiting condition it has other aspects that more than comfortably make up for any perceived shortfalls. His sensibility and knowledge about music, for example, is astonishing. When he was ten years old he knew the names of every band who made the charts, the names of their hit songs, who they were signed to, who they used to be signed to, and who wrote the songs they sang. That's just a glimpse, though. Knowing my baby brother is an ongoing journey of discovery.
One time a documentary maker came to one of my gigs and explained how he wanted to make a documentary about me and my brother. He thought it a fascinating story and worth pursuing. He was all excited about it and told us his plans for how to shoot it.... how he had contacts...
you know the drill.
My brother and I were like..."Sure, dude. Give it your best shot. Count us in."
Then after the gig, on the way home in the car, I turned to my brother and said: "Documentary, huh? You think that guy will do that documentary?"
He looked at me, smiled, and said "brother Paul.... t's never gonna happen."
And we both cracked up in fits of laughter. He had an instinct about people and situations and it was an instinct I came to trust over the years. It was like his instinct about music. He just had it.
Once I was sitting at the piano and Andy came to the door and poked his head in the room. I played a note on the piano without him being able to see the keys.
I said "Do you know what note that is?"
He said "E".I said "Fuck."
Then I said "How do you know that?"
He said "The sound of it shoots off at a certain angle to the right. Not as far to the right as the F or the G. But not straight like the C."
Then I played another note. "What note is that?"
He said "That's A."I said "Fuck."
And this went on for about ten minutes. And every single note, he got right. The octave didn't matter, whether it was sharp or flat didn't matter. He just knew by where the note went.The two years we lived together were our Rainman period. My brother Andy was present at very many of my live gigs and at several of these gigs he was the ONLY person in attendance, apart from me. I, as the performer, the expositor, the elucidator of mine own soul, was not part of my own audience. That just wouldn't be right.
Although there have been many many times when I have traveled out away from my body to view my own gig from some other place (while the gig is actually taking place), usually above my own head, sometimes off to the right, but usually to the left, and sometimes through a little thing I call the "Window of Freedom" which sits there, right between the stage and audience, a little off the side of microphone, these do not amount to me being a part of my own audience, at least not in the sense intended for this particular story.
So Andy would take up prime position at my gigs while I would set up my gear, do my sound check, tune the guitar, forget to write a set list, and fumble around for my cigarettes. And he would wait there, get comfortable, and be ready to adjust his position when and if the audience, the crowd, would come in. There were many times, my friends, when almost no-one else turned up. And once, when almost no-one turned up, Andy spontaneously came up with the perfect word to describe that person. ------------------------------
Usually when almost no-one turned up it was because I was doing a gig in Caloundra - the first city in the world to turn itself, whether by design or by default it doesn't matter, into a nursing home. I mean the whole town. They got Barry Manilow piped through the streets, through the canal estates, across the bowling greens. They got low-impact yoga classes. They got dry-land aqua-aerobics for folks too brittle of bone to lower themselves into the pool. They got non-slip matting outside the ice-cream shop. You can go to a bar in Caloundra and there is a rack under the bar for your walking frame. It's retirement heaven. I'm going there when I retire. But for an up and coming, independent singer-songwriter it was not the town in which to find your audience.
At one of my one-person-in-the-audience gigs my brother came up to me during my first set break and uttered the perfect word to describe them. It was the most brilliant thing anyone has ever said to me...He said: "You better do a few of your alternate tuning songs in the next set... your audient is getting restless. I think he needs to pee."I said: "My what?"He said: "Your audient."And we both laughed for the rest of the night. All through the next two sets. All during the packing up of my P.A. gear. All during the drive back to the little dive motel room we had booked for my "run of shows". I laughed so hard a cigarette popped out of my mouth and blew into the back seat among the PA speakers and almost burned my car while we cruising along Highway 1. "Audient" became a word that leaped out above all other words. It became a word that other words worshipped. It took its place alongside Peace, Coke, Rock n Roll, Elvis and Cartman. Audient. The one word said so much on its own that it didn't need an adjective. That's how you can tell a great noun word.... any adjective added to it only diminishes its impact. The incredible Elvis. Loving Peace. Diet Coke. They all are weaker because of their adjectives. I wish someone would come out with a product that used the name Audient. "Audient aftershave.... you need never be un-alone""The new six cylinder Audient Sportster... drives fast, won't come unstuck...leaves other cars wondering WTF?"My brother and I came up with many similar words or phrases, situational motifs, story-boards, ideas and themes during our two years gigging five and six nights a week. There were no taboos. Just free-flowing consciousness, and we each fed into it, poured our ideas into it, no matter how left-field, how out-there, how certifiably insane. In fact my brother would often let me know when something I said or thought was unfit for contemporary public consumption. Or maybe super-fit....He would turn to me... take a pause from laughing... and say "Most of what you say, big brother, is insane or bordering insane. But that was certifiably insane..."And we would explode with laughter all over again.And at such moments, behind the laughter, I always had a private sudden thought. In those moments I knew I was really on to something.