Monday, June 25, 2007

Talking To the Old Town School

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood earlier today. He was not in a good mood.

“You know, I love the Old Town School of Folk Music.”

You have mentioned that.

“Mary and I have been members for a number of years, and we’ve increased our annual donation the past couple years.”


“They piss me off sometimes.”

You have said that the Old Town School is a great place to see a show, and they have well-behaved audiences, and the people there are great…

“Yes, all true. But I have four complaints.”


“First, their phone system. When they put tickets on sale to members, I usually go there, to the Lincoln Avenue location, and buy them in person.”

You have mentioned that you have gotten some great seats.

“We usually get seats in the first row. But the other day, tickets went on sale for The Swell Season, and there wasn’t a pre-sale for members, and I didn’t feel like taking the morning off work and driving into the city just to buy tickets for one show, and I ended up with tickets in the balcony.”

I have been to the Old Town School, and balcony tickets are still pretty close to the stage.

“I know, I know. It will still be a great show, and yes, we’ve gotten spoiled after sitting in the front row for most shows. But I had to call like ten times, and wait on hold – so I wish they would either upgrade their phone system, or bring in more people to answer their damn phones.”

You said you had four complaints…

“Well, let me think, I guess the second and third complaints lead to the fourth complaint. The second complaint is Al, and third complaint is Robbie.”

Who are…

“Al is the guy who introduces the shows, and reads all the announcements, and explains the rules…”


“Rules for smoking outside, but not taking your drinks outside, and turning off cell phones, and not trying to sneak in a recording device, and not using the noisy doors during the show, et cetera, et cetera. And he thanks the show’s sponsors, and the school’s volunteers, and he thanks the members, and he thanks the media…”

That must take a while.

“And that’s my complaint. If it’s a seven pm show, and Al starts his intro at a few minutes after seven, then the show starts at seven fifteen, if we’re lucky.”

That doesn’t sound too bad.

“Hang on. My third complaint is Robbie. Robbie Fulks, that is.”

I thought you were a fan of his.

“I am, of his music. He is the host of a series of country music shows at the Old Town School. At each of these shows, Robbie interviews the performers.”

Again, doesn’t sound too bad.

“Sometimes he interviews them for like almost an hour.”

Oh. So with Al and Robbie…

“The shows start later than they should, and they run late. And that is my final complaint – and before you say that isn’t so bad, sometimes they have two shows scheduled for one evening. If the early show starts late, then sometimes the performer has to cut their set a bit short.”

Got it. I think.

“I should point out that on nights when Robbie hosts a show, they don’t have a late show. So his long interviews do make the evening a bit longer, but they don’t cut into the sets.”


“I know, I’m running on here. Let me give you two examples. Sometimes, with popular artistes, the school will schedule a 7pm show and 10pm show. If Al doesn’t get off stage till seven fifteen, and the opening acts ends at eight or so, and the main act comes on at like eight fifteen, then they play a shorter set so they don’t delay the late show.”

Got it.

“Second example – we saw Tift Merritt and Anna Fermin at the Old Town School last weekend. Al got off stage at about seven fifteen, Robbie interviewed them till about eight, Anna played about forty-five minutes, and Tift didn’t finish till like ten thirty. I know, that’s not so bad, but it was a Sunday night, and we’ve been to shows that ran past eleven, which would have ended earlier if Robbie had yakked less.”

Will and I both had work to do, and we finished that conversation. He called me back a bit later that same day.

“OK, so now I’m less pissed off.”

At the Old Town School, you mean.

“Yeah. I sent a couple of e-mails to their website, and I already got two nice e-mails back from Gary – he’s the membership director – thanking me for my past support, explaining that with some shows they don’t have time for a members pre-sale before tickets go on sale to the general public, and saying that the Swell Season show was a lot more popular than they expected. And he asked me to clarify my phone problems, so I gave him all the details.”

I’m not sure I know Swell Season, by the way…

“It’s the actor-musicians from the new movie, Once. Great movie, great songs.”

You did not complain to Gary about Al or Robbie?

“Mary says she’s thinking of doing that. I should probably e-mail Gary to warn him.”

No comments: