Two of the better world music acts I’ve ever seen were in town over the weekend. Both the Sweet Honey in the Rock show on Saturday night at the Paramount and the Hugh Masekela 9:30 show at Jazz Alley on Sunday night were very lightly attended. Where were you guys?
About half the seats at the Sweet Honey in the Rock show were empty, which really surprised me since they have a huge natural following here in Seattle and they were on their way to the Grammy Awards the next night.
As we waited in line in the garage to get into the Hugh Masekela show, the Jazz Alley folks apologized for the delay in getting us into the late show and promised that we’d get the same multi-encore show that the early crowd got. It didn’t turn out that way. Mr. Masekela was obviously put off by the numerous missed lighting and sound cues from the production booth (and you’ve got to wonder what he thought about the maybe-one-third-full house), and after about a 75-minute set he and the whole band tromped off the stage never to be seen again. Don’t get me wrong, the show was great. His “Chissa All-Stars” included two great singers and a fabulous singer/violin player, and the band (keyboards, percussion, drums, 2 guitars, bass) totally rocked. Except for the lack of an encore, they were totally present for us.
I mentioned the light turnouts at these shows to a friend who has produced several Seattle world music events and he said that many of the local venues rely on word of mouth and their routine announcement channels, sometimes neglecting promo for individual acts. I did see a couple of small newspaper ads for each of these shows (which is how they ended up on my Seattle world music shows announcement page), but I’d love to figure out what happened here. Is interest in world music on the decline in Seattle? Were these shows inadequately promoted? Or is something else going on?