It’s Like They Say: When the Toddler Breaks Out The Teeny Fiddle, Things Are Looking Bleak. (Well, They Should Say That)

September 25, 2011


Went to a music festival here in town yesterday, a big celebration of area musicians.  It was one of those things where you have to sit directly in front of whoever you’re listening to, in order to avoid hearing 8 other bands at the same time.  About a hundred performers ranging from crazy impressive to “Somebody’s got to tell them.  It’s just cruel to let them perform in public.”  Mostly the former, though.  There was one intro, though, that went, “Thanks, everybody.  You’ve been great.  Coming up in a couple minutes is, uh, hey, what are you guys called?”

“We don’t have a name.”

“Well, think of one.”

“Gosling.  The Something Jazz Trio.  Wanderers.  We don’t know.”


"No, hey, really. That was... that sounded great. Really filled the room with sound. Lovely. Lovely."

Part of the reason for going was just to go, but also a friend ours’ daughter was going to perform with a friend on one of the side stages where there was a procession of new musicians playing just three songs.  Obviously, it was tense.  I mean for me – because seeing someone else’s child perform something generally requires warm-ups and rehearsals in order to look appreciative and sincere as you say, “Wow, right?  That was just… you must be just so… you know?  How about that?”  I was ready, though.

Now, when you’re performing anything, you’re watching the audience but you’re really, really watching who goes up before you.  The wants for an opener are super specific.   You don’t want them to be awful, but it would be worse for them to be great.  They need to be juuuuust good enough to get people in the spirit, but bad enough to make them want more.  It’s a pretty thin “zone of opener”.   If they flat out stink people think the show’s going to be bad overall, and get mad.  If they’re amazing, then after a few minutes they realize you aren’t going to top it and they’ll turn on you.

When we got there, there was a girl performing with who I would assume is her guitar teacher.  Good, but still learning.  A near perfect opener.  I thought our friend’s daughter was next and was quietly pumped for her.  Score.  But I was wrong.

There was one more act first.

No, I said "moppets." Though, this would have been impressive, too.

A family.   Let’s call them Ma & Pa Sincerity and Their Gaggle of Adorable Moppets.  They have six or seven kids – it’s hard to tell, because it’s just a wash of big eyes and home-done haircuts with instruments and matching outfits.  Dad’s on the stand-up bass, mom on guitar, everyone else has at least one instrument, including the toddler, who has a little, teeny fiddle.

It is almost unbearably cute.

They sing, they change instruments, the toddler dances… the sweetness factor in the room rises to the point that diabetics must leave the area, and sodas super-saturate in to pure crystal.  Then, the 7-year-old girl, who is adorable like only a 7-year-old girl with pigtails can be, puts on a little cowboy hat and vest (she’s already wearing a sack dress and red boots), and plays the fiddle and sings “I’m An Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande” complete with a little “yee-ha” at the end that could have made Dick Cheney smile.  Well, okay, maybe not that, but it was pretty cute.

So things are looking rough for the next act who is, hm, let’s see, oh, right – our friend’s daughter.

BUT THEN for their last number, a little boy who’s maybe 3 or 4, and has just been standing there with a fiddle, steps up and plays “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.”  Part way through, the little toddler is dancing around, stops, sees her brother and wobbles over to him, giving him a big hug.  He breaks out in a smile, but keeps playing.  Including a key-change!  What.  The hell.

This, my friends, is just about as bad as it gets for an opener.  I’m a little surprised their instruments didn’t burst in a flash of light at the end, suddenly turning into puppies and jelly beans.  Just really complete things.

Then they finished and went off stage, where mom gave everyone their sandwich, and they politely watched the next act while eating their matching sandwiches.

They don't even have little baby-sized fiddles? Seriously? And we should listen to these so-called "musicians" why?

Aaaand, hey, let’s welcome our next act!  Which is… oh… just a couple girls playing guitars and doing something.  Probably singing or whatever.  No, I don’t think they have little hats.  So, clap for them, I guess.

It was a less than ideal set up for one’s debut.  It’d have been understandable if they’d introduced her and she’d just said, “What, are you kidding?  Screw that.”  She persevered, though, and even kept the room.  She had a genuinely terrific voice (no, really – I don’t think the mom is a reader here at The Byronic Man, so I have no reason to lie), so that was a relief on a couple of fronts – for her, because she was good, and for me.  I’d done my warm ups – she could have sounded like copper wire dragged across glass and I’d have been ready, but instead had to try not to sound gob-smacked (“That was actually good!  Like, I did in fact find that to be well done!”)  Also, she sang “Sea of Love” which is a far better song than it has any right to be.

So, maybe it wasn’t the ideal set up, but she was able to provide contrast, at least – she wasn’t having to ride on goodwill, but could hold her own on her merits. Which I suppose is the most any of us can realistically hope for.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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13 Comments on “It’s Like They Say: When the Toddler Breaks Out The Teeny Fiddle, Things Are Looking Bleak. (Well, They Should Say That)”

  1. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    I used to have this dream that I’d play a couple of songs at the Hotel Cafe someday. I had no interest in becoming a performer, but thought that would be a pretty keen experience to have. Ultimately, after watching tons of shows there, I decided I’d leave that goal to people with more musical talent and cojones–and none of the guys that got me reconsidering my goal were adorable toddlers with fiddles! So, props to your friends’ daughter. 😀

    FYI, I would honest to goodness buy entire coffee table books of photos captioned by you.


  2. madtante Says:

    Went to #2niece’s talent show last year and there were some uncomfortable moments, not the least of which a sweet dancing couple (children, remember) whose song included the N word. Erm…

    I won’t say my niece was best but she’s not bad (won a scholarship to opera camp last year, so I’m not exaggerating–not that she sings opera; she wasn’t to be that Miley person or whoever they listen to these days). One little boy was quite good on the hammer dulcimer but he.kept.playing for about 3 times the length of anybody else’s routine. It became painful, as it was the same thing over and over. I wonder if he wasn’t “in the zone” and just kept playing the same short piece over?


  3. gojulesgo Says:

    Um. Okay. You need to send me the real name of the moppets band so I can feature them on my blog, stat.

    This was hi-larious. I can completely relate. Your captions always kill me!!

    “Sea of Love” is an awesome song. There are some great covers of it on YouTube. I know this because I pretend I’m a talent scout on YouTube, like, all the time. (Bonus: no opening acts.)


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      You should contact bands you find and say that you like the cut of their gib, and would like to sign them to a contract on a major label. Then, after they cry and hug and call their families, clarify that you said you’d like to, but you don’t have that actual ability. And good luck to them.


      • gojulesgo Says:

        I just saw I’m on your blogroll! How awesome is that? I would return the favor and start a blogroll myself, but I resent the fact that all of my favorite bloggers have more subscribers than me.

        On an unrelated note, I’m so confused when people use the phrase: “You need an attitude adjustment.” How do you know if your attitude doesn’t fit you properly, and who do you go to to adjust the measurements?


        • Byron MacLymont Says:

          I always think the polite thing would be for people with more subscribers and commenters to delete their readership, and refer them to me. It’s only reasonable. People are only reading those other blogs because they’re talented and prolific, and I just think that’s unfair.

          And, as I understand it, attitudes should have approximately a one-inch break at the top of the shoe. When you sit, just the tops of your socks or ankles should be visible.


  4. The Good Greatsby Says:

    I’m going to make that phrase popular: When the toddler breaks out the teeny fiddle, things are looking bleak. This sums up exactly how I feel, but I never had a catchy way to express myself when turning down invitations to children’s performances.


    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I’m always mystified when adults talk about children’s performances when they’re not around, and still insist “Wasn’t that just wonderful? Simply breathtaking?” No. No it was awful, because of course it was. They’re not here, you know, we can talk honestly.


  5. pegoleg Says:

    I had similar anxiety, times infinity, when I went to see my daughter sing in the high school talent show. She’s a hell of a drummer, but I never thought of her as a singer. I had all my fake sincerity down pat and then, miraculously, she was really good. This isn’t just a mom talking – she could really sing, with a certain style and everything!

    After the show, I went up to her, smiling ear to ear and gushed, “how come you never sing when we’re in church?”


  6. Kat Says:

    After seeing this title, I had to read this post. And now I see that I will have to read more frequently to make sure you’re not lying.

    I called that family the Von Trapp Family Minus One, because they were missing one kid. And a whistle.

    Devon did great, but she really sounds so much better in my living room. Better acoustics, no other-band garbage noise, and no Von Trapp Family openers.


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