We are cautioned early on that the Idaho locals don't pronounce the "w", leaving the name sounding like "mos-co." With a censused population just under 25K, little Moscow would be forgiven for not having a ton of stuff going on. It is seemingly saved from such a fate by two factors: being located just 10 miles from the college town of Pullman, WA, and the existence of the One World Cafe.
Seriously, we have seen more than our share of coffee shops on the tour, and have seemingly saved the best for last, courtesy of northern Idaho. One World features a ton of local art, a clean, wide open main floor with a balcony overlooking, big windows and an eclectic design.
There are also children. Two little girls when we arrive, growing to three or four running around while Sara Routh and Rae Davis play their sets, much to the performers' unmitigated delight.
I am not a fan of children. Children, however, seem to quite like me, which is unfortunate for me and hilarious for everyone else. On this particular day, the youngest, tiniest, most blatantly adorable of the children becomes intently interested in what I am doing on my computer, and why, exactly, none of those activities involve watching Elmo. Truth be told, she's not really listening to my as I explain the blog. It's this Elmo situation that really seems to be her tentpole issue.
Ellie is her name, or so I'm told, and I'm guessing she's about two. She's there with what I assume is her sister, who's probably 4. They're very inquisitive about the instruments and they both adore Davis and Routh, who adore them in kind. Davis gives them pages from her notebook, and they spend most of the rest of the evening drawing various pictures of Routh, Davis, me, and adorning everything with the inscrutable chicken scratching that toddlers pass off as writing when they are still working on learning words. As each performer takes their turn on stage, the little girls climb around in front of them, sometimes sitting and listening, sometimes drawing and chatting quietly. At one point, one of them takes a hand-scribbled picture and balances it delicately against Routh's boot as she sings.
The audience tonight seems to skew to the extremes. Aside from the toddlers, most of the rest of the crowd is earning valuable AARP discounts at a number of quality establishments. Nothing inherently wrong with either crowd, except that toddlers don't often have any money. But while Routh and Davis are ecstatic to play for everyone who shows up, virtually nobody in this crowd falls into either performers' normal demographic.
Perhaps this is the reason why both sets seem a little flat. This is far from the worst night on tour, everything still sounds great. But the energy is a little lower than usual, Routh's banter doesn't come off as snappy as usual, and much of the between song talk from both performers seems to be met largely with polite smiles and nods.
Sting once said that playing in front of 30 people was far more terrifying than playing in front of 30,000, because every reaction is far more personal and obvious. I'm sure Sting isn't the first or only person to make the observation, but fuck man, it's the first example that popped into my head. The fact remains: by the time you're playing in front of thousands of people, most of them are really excited to see you from the outset, and the ones that tune out are usually not sitting up front checking their texts, and even if they ARE, unless you're David Draiman you've matured to the point where you don't let stupid little shit like that bother you.
But when you're walking into a coffee shop in a new town and giving tiny crowds their first taste of you, it's not always going to work. And when it doesn't...man you can feel every painful second of silence, every delayed spatter of courtesy applause, every squeak of a shifting chair.
I might be putting too fine a line on it for illustrative purposes. It's not like Routh or Davis bombed. People were appreciative. But the crowd was mostly friends of Routh's family, and the friends they brought along with them. It was a crowd that, all things being equal, and Routh being just some act off the street, probably wouldn't have been here on a Thursday night.
But even with a crowd that was supportive though not completely engaged, Routh and Davis give the best of themselves. The timing is a little off, and not all of the jokes are hitting, but the music is good and the constant swarm of children doing children things delights everyone whose heart isn't a cold and empty scar.
After I've moved my gear to a table and have started writing, Ellie toddles up with a picture she drew. She says something in baby. I don't know, she was probably telling me what the picture was. I look at her giant, stupid brown baby eyes for a moment, then do a Google image search for Elmo.
Ellie loses her shit.