Friday, January 24, 2014

Open Mic Night

So, I've been asked about Open Mic Night at the local cafe.

Now anyone on Facebook or Twitter will have heard I got swept up in madness and decided to take the stage with no preparation at all and reaped the reward for it. But we'll get to that...

In the heart of my little town's historic district is a little coffee shop. I fell in love with the place when they first opened. They carry the kinds of tea and tea accessories that would make my Mum drool. They've got the perfect mixture of high and low tables, over stuffed chairs and odd little couches. Every corner of the place is stuffed with books, showy tea sets, antiques and Chinese luck cats. Due in part to abomininal wifi, it's a perfect knitting alone, just me and my thoughts, don't talk to me place. I can't get there as often as I'd like but when I do, it's always like an island of peace in a stormy sea.

They started doing Open Mic about 2 years ago as a way to bring together local musicians. I've talked myself out of going because I can't be trusted with an opportunity to sing in public and honestly didn't think I had much to offer. Not a lot of people really care to hear acapella (without instrumental accompaniment), especially the ballads for which I have a special love.

Yes, I've done it in the past. Once for a crowd of 3,000 when the mixer went belly-up and they couldn't play the accompaniment. For a long time, it was the only way to share my original songs. But just one voice is generally not a popular thing and I've learned from decades of experience you can't make the right moment happen.

When we stopped going to our church, much of the regular, daily singing stopped too. Sure, there's singing along with something on Pandora or whatever Disney movie the grands are addicted to, but I haven't practiced or stood on a stage in a few years. When you go from leading worship on a weekly basis and practicing every day to trying to reach your goal of perpetual shut in, things like singing songs that induce positive emotions fall by the wayside.

Also, I've conveniently had an excuse not to leave the house for nearly 2 years of Tuesday evenings. This is a useful gift of chronic depression... you grow skilled in the art of avoiding things you might enjoy.


In the madness of making resolutions for the first time in my life, it seemed a good idea to take up a friend on his regular invitations to come out to Open Mic Night. Can't very well convince the boys they need to socialize more if I spend every day huddled in a corner mumbling and cackling at my phone. It might also help my general attitude if there is some getting out of the house that doesn't involve running errands.

I love my family. I'm with them 24/7. That is not always a healthy thing. One of the things I learned from Cameron is that having someone attached to your hip everywhere you go makes you grateful for the kind of migraine that shuts you in a dark, silent room because it's the only way to get time to yourself. Everyone needs their own interests and their own friends. As there is no longer anyone in my life with the need to pee on everything and declare it her own, a little friendship building in face to face life could be a good thing.

Open Mic is from 6:00-8:45 every Tuesday night. They have other events during the week but a long history of jumping in with both feet and nearly drowning in the deep end suggested I should take this slow.

Which is why I announced all over social media I was going as a spectator only.


I was there right on time and found a corner chair by what I realized too late was the instrument case corner. Hard to hide out of the way when every person has to walk by you to get their stuff. I curled up in my corner chair, nursed my salted caramel latte and started working on a hat for Dora. I looked around for my friend but knew he might not be there due to a recent loss in his family.

For the first 45 minutes or so, it was enough to listen to the musicians, the banter and watch the nicely eclectic group engage. The genres included soft rock, Bach, folk, bluegrass and a little Gospel. Guitarists, songwriters, pianists, classical guitarists (one of whom is Autistic and John's age), violinists, an adorable young woman with a ukelele and one couple who take their show to the local VA and other veteran's organizations.

I don't remember their names but loved hearing
a bucket bass for the first time.

The couple in the picture did a song called "Yard Sale Queen" that had me snort laughing latte from my nose.

By the time they had gone through the sign up sheet once, I was dying to jump up there and do my thing.

My brain had completely disengaged from my ego and the desire to participate overrode any rational thought. Had my brain been functioning at all, I'd have heard the alarm bells  and kept my happy ass in my comfy, overstuffed chair. But noooo... I had to show off.

I was introduced, walked the five or so feet to the little stage with all confidence and took the mic just like I've done for most of the last 22ish years, told them the name of the song and went right into it.

Precisely one verse into it.

I not only forgot the chorus, the entire melody escaped me like an unexpected wet fart. Even worse, the lyrics on my phone on the music stand were suddenly microscopic.

I laughed it off and tried again. Same result.

"Tonight must not be my night. That's okay. It's enough to try. I'll practice for next time." Handed off the mic to sympathetic applause and went back to my chair and my knitting like nothing had happened.

Part of me wants an Oscar for pulling off what would ordinarily have been a public snot-crying humiliation with grace. Part of me wants to say "Look how far you've come because you stuck around and didn't run". Still another part of me is grateful the ability to stuff emotions into a box and bury them at lightening speed is still part of my skill set.

It's truly a surprise the idea of leaving in an embarrassed rush was little more than a twitchy little thought that buggered off as fast as it came.

Within another few minutes, my friend came in to warm greetings of love and surprise from everyone in the cafe. He immediately found me in my corner and joined me in the now empty chair beside me. We chatted a bit, I offered condolences and asked how he was doing then told him he'd missed seeing me choke on a microphone.

He laughed, tossed out a couple of suggestions for songs we could do and I asked if we could do an old favorite from church. (If you've known me any real length of time, you have heard mention of Crazy Guitar Guy on the worship team. They are one and the same person) Not sure I can even remember a time when seeing a familiar face was such a gift.

We ended up performing "Amazing Grace" to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun". There was a hiccup but we covered it.

At the end of the evening, people came over to introduce themselves and welcome me to the group. One woman, hand over her heart in that distinctly southern lady way, asked me to please try the song again next week. She's certain someone needs to hear it.

I'll take that invitation.

But you can bet, I've already run through the song 67 times since Wednesday morning.

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