(I need to start this with an apology to Rodney who was nice enough to send me a ticket to a StageIt show for review purposes. I completely failed to grasp how internet time works and missed it. I paid to see another show later in the week. Thanks and sorry Rodney!)
With a hatful of songs and the golden throat of a pro, Rodney Hayden has paid his dues as a performer. Starting in his teens with a management deal with Robert Earl Keen, he’s hit the highways long enough and hard enough to be called a veteran. Going out to a venue like a rowdy bar or hushed listening room can be fun. You step out of your little box, go to the performers turf and let them do their thing. It’s how the troubadour business has worked forever. But what if the troubadour could be everywhere and home at the same place?
It’s an interesting idea StageIt has. You plunk down (with some keystrokes) how much you want to spend to see the show, wait for the little spinning wheel to do its thing and boom, showtime. The performer comes to you, you go to the performer. You’re sort of inviting each other into your respective homes. I managed to watch Rodney’s performance on my phone while cooking dinner. Performers often talk about intimate venues, but it’s hard to be more intimate than that. I have a gas range, Rodney was sorta, technically singing to me from around a fire. The interface was simple and intuitive, worked like a charm on my phone and even let me add a little extra cash to the tip jar.
Rodney sang songs as they came up, took requests via StageIt’s integrated chat feature, and told stories between songs. It was causal, homey, off the cuff and completely fun. I live in an area of the country where EDM is bigger than Texas Music and so unless I drive for 16 hours round trip every time I really want to see a show, I miss out on a lot. There is a bit of awkwardness when all the parties involved are looking at a screen and typing to each other, but that gives it the sort of unforced, honest feeling we often look for but miss in a live performance at a watering hole. It brings music back to that communal activity of listening that makes it so fun in the first place.
As for the actual show, what can I say? Rodney sings in a mesquite-honeyed voice from grab bag of songs. Want to hear an original country tune, a Merle Haggard standard, and a Cowboy Ballad? He covers all the important bases with authenticity and style to spare and is engaging enough as a storyteller and performer that you forget you’re looking at a screen the size of a playing card.
I enjoyed my StageIt experience, and I’ll probably do it again, watching Rodney and some other performers. It’s an inexpensive, convenient and fun way to see a show. I can’t always make it to the campfire, but I can bring the campfire to me.