A few months ago I was at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge on a Thursday night, and the open-mic was underway. Songwriters gather, put their name on the list, and go up and play a few songs for the crowd. The host, Chris Chickenwing Quigley, knew I was a musician so he asked if I wanted to play. Since I didn’t have a guitar with me, he said I was more than welcome to use his. Since I have been playing with Boolean Knife, the idea of getting on stage is less daunting to me than it once was, and I knew a couple songs that could transfer to a ‘fun strum’ acoustic format, so I went for it. I got up and played “Dark Kind of Guy” and “Antarctica”. I was pretty nervous, and even a little unsure what I was doing it for.
I kept going back, and depending on how fierce I felt that night, maybe I would play my 2 songs or maybe I wouldn’t. As of a couple weeks ago, I’ve graduated to playing at Lizards every Thursday possible, and bringing my own acoustic guitar- which hadn’t left the house since I bought it in 2004.
It’s standard to play 3 songs at open-mics, so I had to come up with a new song. I added “Scattering Platinum” which worked pretty well and has a nice hook. I also began to play Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” which I found handy as far as getting the otherwise distracted attention of the crowd.
I’ve gone a couple weeks in a row now, and am aware that I’ve been playing the same material over and over. I have over 200 songs recorded, and there is obviously no shortage of cool / clever covers I can throw in. In the interest of keeping things fresh, I’ve decided to add a new song every time I show up to play. Last night, I played “Nostalgia” live for the first time ever. Went over pretty well, but I think I need to work on the strumming pattern a little more.
My psychology has shifted about what it means to play at an open mic. I think before, I thought of it as nothing more than some promotional end. Getting my songs ‘out there’. But that’s not what it’s about at all. It’s about bringing my material to life for a crowd. It’s about being in the moment and making something magical happen. There are myriad rewards as far as sharpening my skills, and getting my name around, but these are secondary and tertiary to the performance itself.
So, if you’re looking for something to do on a Thursday night, swing by Lizards and say hello!