WWWD (What Would Weezy Do?)

A couple weeks back, I had the most embarrassing, awkward, ridiculous moment I have ever experienced on stage! I’m not quite sure yet what it’s taught me though. It may have proven I was due for an “open mouth, insert foot” moment, it may have proven that anyone can be unintentionally racist, or it may just prove that some people become offended a little bit too easily. I’ll let you be the judge.

Scene: Knockout Mouse (our cover band alter-ego), was playing a gig in the super-classy Stonewall’s Tavern located in Lansdowne Resort. The upscale audience can sometimes be a bit slow to cut-loose… but not on this night. We had them dancing their feet off and tossing aside their ties by the second song. It was going to be a great night.

During our first set break, I was asked to say “happy birthday” on mic to one of the ladies in the crowd. Let’s call her “Jane” for the sake of the story. So a song or two into the second set, I wished Jane a happy birthday. Come to find out, she was standing close to the front of the stage, dancing like crazy and loving life. Jane was literally THE most enthusiastic fan our band had seen in months. She had been the one giving the band high-fives and dancing every second of the first set. We had certainly won her over. Jane, along with her husband, happened to also be the only black people in the entire room. This fact never crossed my mind, and I never noticed… until “it” happened.

About four songs deep into our second set, Jane yelled out a request. I don’t recall what song it was, but I do recall it being a song that we just didn’t know. So I said something to the effect of “Sorry Jane, we don’t know that one, but this next song goes out to you... I promise you will love it”. I knew we had a good set planned, and was confident that the next several songs where “home runs” that the crowd (and Jane) were sure to eat up. I looked down at the setlist and without thinking, started playing the next song. I was on auto pilot. Kind of like Ron Burgundy reading whatever is on the prompter, regardless of what it says. This normally isn’t a terrible thing... unless you just told the only black person at a high end resort that you will “love” this next song – and then play the theme song to the Jefferson’s TV show – Movin’ on Up. You know, the show that chronicled the rise of a black family moving from a working class section of Queens into a luxury apartment in Manhattan. Or maybe from Manassas to Lansdowne.

I noticed the moment we started playing that she froze. Her flashy dance moves were replaced by a death-stare. I focused my visual attention elsewhere and watch the rest of the bar dance like there’s no tomorrow. Singing the first line – “Fish don’t fry in the kitchen, beans don’t burn on the grill”, I already knew I was in trouble. After I strummed the last chord of the song, the crowd cheered and clapped as my guitar and cymbals faded to silence. But then it was silent. Really silent. I reluctantly glanced up at Jane. I’m pretty sure you could hear a pin drop as she looked right at me and said for the whole bar to hear “No, I did NOT love that song. I’ve never been more offended in my life. You’re a fu&%ing racist!” As I started to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you”, the rest of the room sensed the awkwardness of the moment. I repeated my apology – on mic – as she continued her rant, screaming at me that I was a racist. She then gave me the one finger salute, said something about “meeting me out back with a piece of wood” and stormed out of the bar. I was only able to say one word as she walked through the door in a desperate attempt at tension-breaking humor: “Aaaawk – wooooord”.

I tried to be a professional, and move on with the evening without showing any sweat. But the night just couldn’t recover. I spent the next few days thinking about this weird, possibly offensive, very bizarre, and obvious awkward moment of my musical career. I have no doubt that I didn’t intentional do anything racist. It’s not like I consciously thought “oh, there’s some black people here at this resort. Let’s play a song that is literally the theme song for the story of a black person working their way into wealth." But the fact remains, regardless of my intent and my lack of purposeful racism, SHE was offended. Who am I to judge what offends her?

After much reflection, I don’t think I will stop playing this song when the mood strikes me, but I certainly won’t be dedicating it publicly to anyone. Lesson learned.

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