of weeks back, I played a benefit for Faith In Action Caregivers, a
charity organization that provides food, companionship and
transportation to senior citizens.
good cause and non-denominational, which means as long as you’re some
kind of Christian and not sacrificing farm animals or wearing a turban
only natural they would ask someone dark, moody and foreboding like me
took place at Jones Auditorium in the Ragsdale Center of St Edward’s
College, a decent venue that holds about 250 people. It was definitely
one of the larger audiences I’ve faced in a while.
was definitely the largest audience I’ve had in more than ten years—and
that includes shows where I’ve opened for Slaid Cleaves and Jimmy
LaFave. (It’s not called name dropping any more, it’s called being
there late and missed the opening act, a classical guitarist who played
Brazilian music, but I did catch most of the mariachi band. The band
was followed by the bubbly St. Ed’s choir, which was followed in turn
by two elderly women who played classical piano at the same time (you
had to be there), and the first half of the show concluded with a
condensed play performed by some adults with Downs Syndrome.
was funny. Intentionally.
intermission, FIAC took up a collection, just like church. They also
served refreshments, cookies, coffee and sodas—also like church, or at
least an AA meeting.
beginning to see the picture here? I did not fit in at all. True, I can
eat cookies and swill soda with the best of them, but otherwise I might
as well have been wearing a turban. I opted for the bottled water and
struck up a conversation with Deb, the show’s organizer.
kind of the odd man out,” I told Deb.
all,” she said. “You’re the odd man in.”
funny. Intentionally. Who knew?
intermission, an enthusiastic group of white people performed Taiko,
aka traditional Japanese drumming. Everyone was dressed like Benihana
cooks as they beat their drums and clicked their sticks on the sides of
their impressive instruments.
over to the guy next to me. “Aren’t they supposed to toss us food at
some point?” He didn’t get the joke.
Taiko came the terribly cute Austin Children’s Choir, which was
followed by what turned out to be my favorite act of the night—a guy
performing on the Turkish Ney flute. I’m still not sure if this was
some kind of hoax however, since he sounded like a cross between Borat
and Andy Kaufmann’s Latka Gravas.
of the first tune is called ‘Lament,’” the performer said. As he
started the first few notes, he stopped suddenly and asked, “Is this
wondered if the mic was on. Here’s what the Turkish flute sounds like:
Clasp your hands together and blow air through your thumbs. Hear
anything? Maybe a little whistling underneath the breathiness? That’s
the Turkish flute.
over to the guy sitting next to me. “Can you believe we’re watching
this guy blow his own Turkish flute on stage?” Still nothing.
opener, he told the audience the title of his next number.
Unfortunately, it was in Turkish and no one understood a word.
coincidentally,” he said, “it also translates to English as ‘Lament.’”
He introduced the third number, an improvisational piece. I forget the
name of the song, but it was just as lamentable as his first two
Turkish flutist was followed by a trombone solo by a high school boy
(better than you’d expect), and trombone boy was followed by me.
me to headline, since I was the only performer who had been on both
national TV and radio. And while that’s all true (it’s in my bio, it
must be), the national TV appearance was a performance on The Gong Show
during the late ‘70s, and the National Public Radio appearance in 1999
had nothing to do with music at all—I read one of my online columns for
NPR’s All Things Considered.
show (like this column) ran too long, so I suggested to Deb that I cut
my four-song set to two. She agreed, and soon I heard the emcee call my
Jasper in the house?” the emcee asked as I clip-clopped my boots to the
stage, my Collings guitar strapped around my neck.
to need two of these mics,” I told the emcee as I lowered one of the
microphone stands to waist level.
said. “Which one would you like to use as a vocal mic?”
I asked, almost involuntarily. Before he could answer, I just grabbed
the other mic stand and put it in front of my face.
charity was about senior citizens, it got me thinking about my dad
before he passed away, so I decided to do a song I had written about
him called “Blue Tonight.”
“This is a
song I wrote about my dad the night I learned he was dying from
cancer,” I said.
idiot. Look at the audience. They’re all dying of something. I tried to
promise, I’ll play something cheerier for my second number.”
the awkward mic set up, the guitar and vocals sounded fine and the song
went across well. I think they were just glad I wasn’t playing
trombone, Turkish flute, Japanese drums or something equally as arcane.
first number, I played “Ten Years From Now,” a song about how
relationships can be resolved in ten minutes or ten years depending on
the approach. Not exactly a Bobby McFarren “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
ditty, but not about death and dying either. (Go to myspace/jaspersongs
if you’re curious.)
finished, the emcee said, “By the way, Mike Jasper has been on national
TV, national radio and once had a song on radio station KUT.”
started coming up to meet me, since I was suddenly this celebrity
they’d never heard of before. One woman in particular kept eyeballing
me suspiciously, and she finally approached me.
I didn’t think “Ten Years From Now” was all that cheery,” she
said. I told her she made a fair point, but she wouldn’t back
down. “Hell, I don’t even know if I’m going to be alive in ten years.”
I took a
deep breath. There was nothing much I could say except, “I know, I
know. I’m just a bleak, bleak man.”
This column aims to be funny. If you can read anything else into it,
you're on your own.
is a writer and musician living in Austin, Texas.
from the San Francisco Bay Area, he claims strong ties to Seattle, St.
Petersburg, Florida and North Platte, Nebraska.