Friday 27 June 2014

Thursdays (biweekly): Democracy on Locke

   Once the home of the beloved Locke Street Bakery, upstart café Democracy now hosts an open mic every second Thursday (there's a decent article from the Spec about the new place here). I missed the one two weeks ago, but managed to drop in last night about 2/3 of the way through the night.

   Since I was recording with Danny Medakovic right beforehand, the hosts – a local group called The Tallest Tree  – had signed me up ahead of time, and even texted me to let me know when I would be playing...! When I arrived, a young guy was playing guitar and singing some covers, all to very wild and enthusiastic applause – an encouraging if mildly intimidating atmosphere, like arriving late to the coolest kid's birthday party.

   The setup is simple: a couple small speakers, a guitar amp, a mic plugged into a small board, a drum kit, all tucked away into the back corner, with the storefront walls opened up so the sound billows out onto Locke. It works for making things heard, but the musician in me prefers a system that lets my voice and guitar sound a little richer and fuller (I didn't pay $300 for that Martin for nothing! ;).

   So I got a bottle of Mad Tom ($6.85, poured for me into a glass by the barista-slash-bartender with the Arcade Fire haircut), found a free seat near the front, and listened for awhile. A drummer joined in near the end, and again the set wrapped up to hoots and hollers.

   Since I was at the end of the list, I was given the green light to play more than 3 tunes, so I think I actually played 5 (including the slightly culturally sideways folk song "Groundhog") and then got the signal for "one more," which is more than I usually get to do, but is likely not the norm. Dawn and Armando were friendly and accommodating, helping me get set up and find a spot to place my lyrics (for lack of a music stand) and lending me a pick when I suddenly couldn't find mine halfway through...

   The crowd was pretty representative of the gentrified Locke St area, and I'd say generally younger than other open mics: student and Hipster 20-somethings enjoying specialty coffees and microbrews on tap (I also had a pint of Barking Squirrel: $5.65. Mental note: buy pints not bottles). (Oh! also? they had wine on tap! this was a new one on me) There was a low buzz of chatter throughout the night, but it wasn't overwhelmingly loud like it often can be at the Coach & Lantern's open mic. I looked around during the two sets after mine, and I'd say there were some pretty attentive listeners – maybe a third of those there? Later as I was leaving I even got some positive feedback from a few of them, meaning they'd paid enough attention to remember my stuff even after two other acts, which is good!

   The repertoire was notable: some interesting covers of things like Weezer and Sianspheric and stuff, and from what I heard this younger crowd was a pretty talented bunch: diverse, unusual, eclectic, and some really good players and singers (I'm lookin at you, Ana).

   All in all a decent event with a pretty atypical vibe for an open mic, which is kind of refreshing.

PS: no music stand :( ...but we did build one out of a bar stool and some other bits and pieces.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Hamilton talent!

   This city, Hamilton, Ontario, is a massive pool of talent. It's pretty astounding. And every week, all over the place, in cafés and bars, musicians (and sometimes comedians – hi Andrea!) show up and wait for their chance to share music that's important to them with whoever will listen.

   For the last year I've been writing songs, and after awhile the urge to play them out in front of people drove me out the door, so I decided to pluck up my courage and hit an open mic. My first one was the Corktown, a few blocks from me. Tomi Swick was slated to host but wasn't there, so I just played, and it was great! ...and then I got hooked. I have a somewhat addictive personality, so it doesn't take much, but I've been going out to as many as my schedule and circadian rhythms will allow, at least 2 per week right now for close to a month.

   I went to one tonight, @ Homegrown Hamilton (and hosted by the very friendly and supportive Dave Gould) ...and it suddenly occurred to me, I am becoming an sort of afficionado! and so, without further ado, I present to you,

Hamilton Open Mics (a blog)!

...I'll be reviewing open mics based on a number of factors:
  • audience (i.e. attentiveness)
  • crowd (hipster? fogie? folkie?)
  • beer prices (anywhere from a free pint for playing to $7.50 plus tip...!)
  • talent and energy...
  • repertoire (folk? rock? blues? post-metal?)
  • ...and the overall experience, basically
EDIT:  It's also been suggested I discuss the congeniality of the host, the quality of the sound and/or the sound technician, the gear available (so potential performers know what or what not to bring), and timelines: when to sign up, whether it runs on schedule, etc. Good ideas Tom Shea! Thanks!

so heeeeeere we go...!