Having something to say musically is certainly a good thing, but the other side to that is having people willing to listen. Usually, the willingness of people to listen can be influenced by the performer to a degree. In the right circumstances, a performer can still an entire room (cf. Jill Hepburn). In the wrong circumstances, it can barely matter what the performer does, e.g. Rum Club night down at the Blazer, after midnight at Nicol Edwards, etc. What may work in a noisy bar, may not in an art cafe, and vice versa.
So, it was with some interest, and a little trepidation, that The Storm played in The Hootananny in Inverness on Sunday, a venue previously unknown to us. How receptive would people be? The outside of the venue seemed to proclaim it's folk heritage, which made me wonder if the crowd would take kindly to us, not being traditional folk and all. I also wondered if there'd be any people there, as we didn't start until 10:15 on a Sunday night.
I needn't have worried on either count, as there were people, and they were willing to listen. Were there more receptive people than an equivalent Sunday night in Edinburgh? It certainly seemed so.
I'm still musing over why that should be the case. The layout and décor of the place helped: a wide welcoming room, seats where people could sit and see/hear the stage, no massive screens showing sport, photos from music festivals on the walls, volume at a level where people could still converse if they chose. I'm wondering if the stance of the promoter helped too; as well as the traditional folk sessions, he was interested in good quality original music, and there seemed to be a long-term strategy of encouraging that. Over a period of time, I'd imagine a venue gets a name for itself as having decent music, and people might pop along even if they didn't know the band.
It made a refreshing and encouraging change from the usual pressure to bring along a vast crowd of people, and never mind the musical quality. Despite obviously not being able to generate a massive crowd, we were still put on as the main act. People enjoyed it, people bought beer, venue made money, band even got paid (gasp).
Once again it seems it's worth it to leave Edinburgh when performing.