Friday, April 26, 2013

Swan Song

It’s funny. 

Antics from DJ Baqbeet and LBJ
 The open mic feels very much like the biggest contribution I’ve made to this scene to date.  I’ve gotten such good feedback and such positive vibes from so many of you about what we’ve been doing.  Yet somehow, as this thing draws to a close, I can’t help but feel a little… anxious maybe.

Open Mic Nights exist in this weird space between karaoke and a booked performance—a space carved out for folks aspiring to be true performers but still developing the chops, experience, or connections.  The distinction between karaoke and open mics are totally lost on many people, non-musician people like my neighbor Joe who, early on in my St. Louis music career, would sit out late and ask me, “How was karaoke?” when I returned, toting my gig bag, from an open mic.  Open mics are how the new, untested artist spreads his wings, gets his sea-legs, or whatever metaphor you want to use for gaining experience.  Don’t believe that.  Check out LBJ just 2 years ago at his FIRST open mic outing, a week into moving to St. Louis, courtesy of Craig Deeken (

Scared?  You bet.  Awkward?  Extremely.  Having the time of my life?  Don’t sleep on me!

If you’ve seen me lately, you know I’ve improved (I hope).  That started with hitting these open mics hard.  Not only that, I would have had a really tough time meeting, oh I don’t know, EVERYONE I KNOW in the music scene, had my devotion to the open mic been less dogged.  Everyone I’ve done a project with, nearly every musician who’s asked me to be on a bill, the co-founders of St. Louis Songwriters Anonymous, even Dan and Jelani, I met at open mics.

Dr. Dan, the pancake man.
Devotion?  Yeah, that.  With the exception of a few outlying venues and some newer events, I’ve been a repeat offender at nearly every open mic in and around this city.  And for the most part, every one of them is a ball and worth attending, each in its own way.  But, other than Plush, I’ve been to very few where the hosts are routinely taking pictures and video (Wesley’s gig at Joanie’s, which you should check out, is the only one I can think of).  I’ve been to even fewer where the hosts conduct onstage interviews.  Only two, The Shed at Gramophone on Mondays and Hwy 61 Roadhouse in Webster Grove on Tuesdays, have a full backline that enables open jam.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen another one where the hosts offer free studio time and slots on an internet radio show. 
I guess what I’m saying is, open mic might have been a little bit of a misnomer.  We’re more like a once a week community rec center for aspiring artists.  

You guys have been phenomenal.  The energy, the support, the sheer attention paid to each act—you don’t get that everywhere you go.  And that’s not something that Dan, Jelani, and I had a lot of control over.  We just did our song and dance, clowned around and rolled the dice.  You guys made stuff happen.  It was a positive experience every time we took the stage.  And the things that people made happen, the connections made, the projects embarked on and content created, I’ve extolled at great length and need not elaborate here.  You made my day; you made this thing worth doing every week.

So, I guess what has me anxious is, what happens now?  Where will you go?  Where will the next IQ and Daniel Dwyer meet?  Where will a mastermind like Darian Wigfall meet a prodigy like Darris Robins and set out to take over the scene together?  Where will Freevibe get funky every Sunday?

Jamming with our first featured artist, Bongo Jak. Mike on drums.
 Maybe it just seems like it to me because I was in the middle and my typical vantage point has been from the perimeter, but a lot of awesome talent converged on our little corner of the city.  

On Sunday, April 28th, we sing our last song, but don’t let that be yours.  Do what I did.  Hit the scene.  Schedule to meet up with the friends you’ve made at the Shanti or Foam or Pop’s Blue Moon.  Meet new folks to jam with at The Shed at Gramophone, Hwy 61, or the acoustic jam at Handlebar.  Get your chops and expand your circle.

It’s your scene.

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