August 15, 2011 by David Gillaspie
OPEN MIC MEANS OPEN MIND
The guys showed up alone carrying acoustic guitars in soft cases, paste board cases, and custom hard cases.
Each of them planned to stand on stage and sing for twelve minutes.
Twelve minutes of soul searching.
Twelve minutes of analysis.
Twelve minutes of confession.
Then a man got up and sang Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics on his banjo. He did it in a voice perfectly tuned to the single notes and double stops he slid on the neck.
Sweet dreams are made of these
Who am I to disagree?
Travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused
No one inside the Alberta Street Public House concert room felt abused by him Wednesday night.
Later, a man stood with his stand-up bass and soloed to Leonard Cohen‘s Hallelujah.
I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Everyone in the room sang the chorus each time it came around. Even though the room had side tables, the benches down the middle gave it a church feel with Leonard.
The church theme grew when two men in their sixties stood up and sang in the sort of deep voiced harmony you hear in a church choir.
There was magic in the air.
Magical howling, magical nervousness, magic so real that one act lost their place in the schedule from a bathroom break when their name was called.
If you like an open mic night where the players don’t get lost in production values, but still get a clean sound, the Alberta Street Public House is it. The feel is New Orleans exclusive where all classes meet for the sake of real music.
Three of the musicians looked like they’d just rolled out from under a bridge, but you know that can’t be when one of them carried an accordion strapped to their chest when they walked in.
John John John whipped through his set with the sort of genius an experienced performer exhibits. He knew his songs and trusted the audience enough to know when to clap.
A Keith Richard look-alike wearing a Gram Parsons’ stone cowboy shirt played twelve minutes of original music you’ll never hear anyplace else on John John John’s guitar. It’s a cooperative event.
What’s it take to play an open mic? Know your songs inside out and tune your instrument before taking the stage. Show who you are, talk to the audience, tell them about your song before breaking it out. Keep a sense of humor about making a mistake. No one expects a virtuoso, but some do show up.
If you see four beautiful people at one table looking like they just left a modeling set, play on.
If you see someone reading a book while you play, keep going.
If you see an older guy wearing a boonie hat with a Vietnam Vet pin, keep time.
Your moment on stage is more about what you give to the room than what the room gives you. Do it right and you ride the big wave to practice more and do it again.
Do it wrong and you’ll want to cut your fingers off.
Don’t reach for the saw. Instead, find a new batch of songs, work them up, and take the stage next time.