good morning ~
(click the link / deconstruction site to listen)
today's track is exactly the kind of goofy jammer I make when I want to cheer myself up
been one week since I dropped this collection of weekly tunes on bandcamp - - thanks to all who checked out this highly experimental digital zine and music format - - if you haven't gotten a copy yet, may I remind you that tomorrow is once again bandcamp friday:
also! playing a gig at the famous avalon lounge in one week's time - - really wonderful high caliber songwriters on the bill plus me, get your tickets here and here's the flyer:
Consider the open mic - amplification provided, an open forum, soapbox subset community gathering place, scrawl your alias on the clipboarded piece of paper and do what you will with the time allowed. What will you do? Iron out the wrinkles of your tight five? Stumble through a song you just finished writing that afternoon? Let your friend go nutty on the house drum kit? Try and charm the evening's host, hoping for a more spirited introduction when your name is finally called. Needlessly adjust the microphones and their stands, amplifying the rubbing sound of your hands fidgeting and tightening while you crack self-deprecating jokes that don't land. Spend an overly long time fiddling with your dusty acoustic guitar and get it less in tune than when you started adjusting the pegs. Leaf through your ragged notebooks, looking for the right poem to read, muttering to yourself "no, not that one." Belt your rendition of a truly baffling choice of cover - nobody here expected to hear that song tonight but a couple of them are singing along. See if the person running sound will play your backing track off of your phone, tell them to "hit it" when it's time. Try something bold feeling before a jury of your peers - they clap so loud when they're waiting for their own moment on the stage. Plug your social media, a few followers more. This is your chance to say all the things you've seen said on microphones in movies:
"let's have a round of applause for all the other acts tonight"
"thanks for listening, you've been a great crowd"
"make sure to tip your bartender"
But how open is the mic, really? There are levels of exclusion, hurdles of chutzpah. First, one has to know that the open mic is happening. Are you paying attention to the maneuvers of your local venues? Did you even know they did one there? Then one must feel at ease even entering the place - bars necessarily operate and exclude on a whole host of social cues, some subtle some overt, no watering hole can appeal to every person in town. Do you feel at least comfortable enough to walk in there? And then when you're actually there, milling around in that uneasy half an hour before the acts begin, do you actually dare? Or do you simply sit in the corner and watch, thinking you'll hit it next month? And have you met the required two-drink minimum?
It was attending an open mic that lifted me out of the temporary homelessness I hurled myself into when I moved to New York in 2010. I heard somewhere that deep in Alphabet City people gathered on Tuesdays to play songs for each other in the apartment-slash-gallery of a blind poet elder, so one week after housing some Two Boots pizza I carried my banjo past Avenue C. The host was friendly enough, turned out to be the buddy of a buddy, but no one else showed up to sing. So he and I swapped songs al fresco out on the stoop and cut the evening short. As I was getting ready to go he asked me, "hey - do you happen to need a place to live?" I surely did, sick as I was of crashing on various floors. I'm still not sure whether or not he intuited that I was without a mailing address and in need of a sprig of providence or if he just simply needed someone to fill one of the spaces in the apartment for which he had already signed the lease. Either way, the open stoop changed my life. I later sold the banjo.
Other open mics: totally ineffectual at a coffee shop outside of Tampa, a gathering of Wiccans in the corner never looked up from their weekly business, 19 years old and wondering if my hollering over acoustic guitar was too obtuse. A couple of weeks crashing on a couch in Pilsen, my buddies inserting their stoned folktronica in-between vividly real spit verses detailing life in Chicago, don't remember what I contributed. A famous weekly event in New York City, other people had somewhat recently become successful musicians after playing there for years, but all I could see was a bitter inwardness and a scary amount of drinking.
It's like karaoke that way - the party lights, the attention paid, your voice booming through the equipment, it's all very convincing. You step out from the dark and into a golden beam. This is the intoxication - the fleeting feeling that you are worth being paid attention to, that your use of your time allowed is just as valid as anyone else's. Maybe you're young and still trying it out, placing your hand on the hot oven coil to see if it burns. Maybe you're sweetly reliving something, wishing you had put more sweat into it years ago, squinting back at yourself. Or maybe you're truly a contented hobbyist, gratified in other deeper ways and teaching yourself a few chords just for something fun to do.
I want to ask them all - what do you hope will happen? And what do you expect? In your wildest dreams what is the most outlandish and wonderful outcome? I never hoped that singing a song could have found me affordable housing, a beautifully tidy solution to my most pressing problem - never could have imagined it, too long of a chain. And then again, what are we ever hoping for, loping toward the end of every day alive? I pine - as you do, as do the ragged singers and dogged poets gathered at the bar's off night - for simply anything even a little good to happen, our strings shall not break, some lukewarm clapping, sibilants hissing in the speakers.
But what about you? Are you putting your name on the list? Will you step into the golden beam? What do you hope will happen?