Jen Hirsh ’08 speaks of the trials and tribulations of being on tour. She recently completed a tour of the northeast promoting her new album Myself in Two.
June 13 – Middle East Upstairs – Boston, MA
The first night of the tour was a perfect way to start off. Coming back to Boston after 3 years was definitely different, but it was great to be in a familiar city. It is so hard to promote your show in a city where you don’t live anymore, which makes it all the more rewarding when people come out to support. I booked most of these shows myself and I hadn’t been fully aware of the local bills I was joining, like this particular night at the Middle East. I played with my guitarist, Adam Tressler, duo style, in between a couple of Reggae/Dub/Dance groups. Needless to say our set wasn’t as “fitting’ as it could’ve been for the evening, but we were in Boston with a Berklee band on the bill, 6th Degree, so the appreciative crowd enjoyed our set regardless. For a Monday night when the Bruins were playing, we had a fabulous turnout and a very excited crowd. Berklee staff members Marjorie O’Malley and Peter Gordon even surprised me at the show so it was a great way to end the night!
June 15 – The Living Room – New York, NY
This show was not only the best of the tour, but the best show I’ve played to this date. It is so exciting playing to a packed house filled with familiar faces, as well as new ones! This show was also the only one I played with a full band. Since I was just living in New York City last year, I still know a ton of musicians who have played my music before. I knew in rehearsal that this was going to be killer! We were all so present and in the moment, nothing could’ve thrown us off track. My publicist lives in New York City so she had a fabulous writer from a popular blog (Bowery Boogie) come out and he wrote a fabulous review right away! This show was very memorable because during the song Room So Big I got my first NYC standing ovation!! The room was so attentive and reactive; it was amazing to have such a special moment like that! I think I even shed a few tears when I saw people start standing up during the song it was THAT powerful. It was also amazing to see some old fans bring 4 + people with them! This is how it happens, people tell their friends, who tell their friends. We, as artists, cannot forget to stay close to our fans because they are the only thing that will make this happen for us.
June 16 – World Café Live (Upstairs) – Philadelphia, PA
Adam Tressler, James Williams, and I played an early Happy Hour set on this date. This is a very prestigious venue with an amazing happy hour, apparently, because the place was packed! The crowd, however, wasn’t there to give 100% of their attention to the band, they were there to get cheap drinks and food. I think we got a decent reaction from the audience, especially when I asked the crowd which Philly cheesesteak I should eat (Pat’s or Geno’s). When playing to a crowd where not one person knows you, it’s easy to feel naked. I just really tried to stay present and address the crowd as much as I could. This show was particularly special for me because I had 5 fans that drove from Delaware and New Jersey, whom I have never met before! One woman was singing all of the lyrics/requesting songs. I’m sure every artist remembers that moment when a complete stranger knows all of their songs, all of the lyrics, and what they’re up to. It was an amazing feeling!
June 17 – Bella Café – Washington DC
This show was an absolute disaster, so much of a disaster that we did not even play it! When booking this tour, I was having some trouble finding the appropriate venues to play in DC and Jersey, so my old publicist who knew a freelance booker in New York set me up. He booked this DC show and the New Jersey show. I noticed something fishy when I couldn’t find Bella Café as a music venue anywhere online, nor did I find any schedule, or local artists playing on the same night as me. When I asked the booker about these issues, he replied with, “it’s a new venue, there is a music festival happening there the week before you play, this should really help it’s reputation in the DC area,” so I just went with it. We walked in during the load in time to a small Ethiopian restaurant asking where the music was. We were led upstairs and the manager turned on the lights to reveal a musty, attic of a room. We hesitantly set our gear down and proceeded to go downstairs to have a meal. We were then notified that the chef was “sick” and all they had were chicken fingers. When we left the venue to go out for dinner, we were left no other option but to cancel this show. There were no customers (unless they wanted chicken fingers), no sound guy, and the language barrier between the entire staff was too hard to hop over, it just wasn’t worth it to play a show at a venue that nobody knew about. It was a total letdown, but these things happen on tour. My band (James and Adam) were consoling me, telling me that they had been on dozens of tours with a show or two that had ended up like this. The booker reimbursed me, and now the next time I book DC, I will get extra special treatment. So, DC was a little bit of a bust, but it was nothing a few drinks and some good chatter couldn’t fix.
June 18 – The Saint – Asbury Park, NJ
This was the last date of our tour and after driving 5 hours from DC to New Jersey we were exhausted. I was also a little suspicious of this venue because the last one was so bad. We walked into a grungy, dark, punk-rock room covered in posters and stickers. The venue seemed pretty legendary looking at the artists on the walls, but again, not really appropriate for my music. However, I was sure that this night (opening for Jim Boggia) was an acoustic songwriter series, so it was a different type of evening for The Saint. We walked in for an early load in, obviously the venue was empty. We were sort of expecting to play to an empty room and just head back to New York, but we were totally wrong! After a lovely happy hour deal at an urban bistro called Fish, we headed back after the music had already started and we walked into a packed room. There were four local acts before Jim Boggia, and it was such a nice surprise to have an attentive crowd. I, again, had a couple of fans who had checked me out from the venue’s advertised event, which was such a great feeling! The crowd loved James’ percussion playing in particular (he’s amazing, of course). We played a cover of Ramble On by Led Zeppelin, since we were in a rock venue, we felt that need to rock out a little bit. It ended up being a great decision! It’s always very important to read your audience and guess what originals and covers they will like best. This happened to be an older crowd so choosing a Zeppelin song was perfect. We packed up and got out of there in sort of hurry because we had to get our rental car back to the city ASAP.
Overall, this was an amazing first tour. We played great shows, gathered new fans (priority #1), sold CDs, and moved people emotionally. My goal for this tour was not to be rich by the end of it, it was to have some more names on my mailing list, some new twitter followers, and to have some new people take m home with them in CD form! Because, in the end, it’s all about the fans!
Jen Hirsh feels lucky to release her debut full-length album Myself in Two in a musical climate where good music is finally synonymous with ‘cool’ music. Hirsh has been dominating both coasts for quite some time now; in Boston she was a touted member of the elite jazz world and when she wasn’t sharing the stage with icons such as Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon, Gloria Estefan, Steve Gadd, Abe Laboriel, and Michel Camilo, could be found improvising at hole in the wall staple Wally’s. After Berklee Hirsh relocated to NYC and has since moved to Los Angeles.