Acoustic 27: That was fast!

Last night I began my at-home practice for the ‘Acoustic 27’ project I dreamt up in the past few days. I settled into my sunroom at about 9:45 pm, and told my phone to set an alarm for 30 minutes. This way I was free to work through my song list without constantly glancing over at the clock. I started at the top and played the songs Antarctica, Ashland, Breathing Underwater, skipped Call Our Own (I have no idea what the chords are and have to re-figure the song out), Dark Kind of Guy, and Deep Dark Secret.

I was amazed that I was able to play most of these all the way through from memory. I’d played most of them live before- even though it was years ago. Another cool thing I noticed was that my hands were coming up with new variations on guitar… not quite the fingerpicking I had imagined, but rather incorporating the spirit of the songs’ melodies via strumming different chord variations, and accenting different notes.

My mind is a little calmer these days… In the past I had lots of negative thinking going on that was impairing my playing. (i.e. thinking “I’ll never remember these songs” was leading to… guess what? My not remembering the songs.) Not only did I remember the first few songs I played, but my hands were loose… finding their way to these new melodic interpretations I mentioned.

So. It’s only one day later, but tonight I’ve decided to hit an open mic. The stakes are pretty low at some of these events, meaning to say, it’s totally fine if I make a mistake or two. There is a bar on Pulaski and Berteau called Paddy Mac’s. Tuesdays they have an open mic at 9pm. I’ve played it before, and tonight I’m going to play it again! I called the bar to confirm it was indeed still a weekly event, and the cheerful voice on the other end made me feel welcome.

My idea of eventually recording & releasing these 27 songs has morphed. I’m going to record every open mic I do over the next year, and then select the 27 songs from the open mic recordings. It feels right, as opposed to me sitting at home in my studio recording these tunes. The audio won’t be as good, but the energy of my playing + the energy of the crowd will add something to the record that none of my other records have.

I’ve also decided to try a little storytelling in between the songs. Or at least some fun banter. In the past, I’d get up and play my three or four songs, and not really talk at all. People enjoyed my tunes, but I wasn’t connecting as well as I could have. To be honest, working the crowd is a new zone for me, so if I get to the open mic tonight and change my mind and don’t want to talk that much, that’s okay too. I have a year to try these things out, and even to let the stories about the songs take on a life of their own, guided by the interest / energy level of the audience. You know. Workshoppin’.

I used to have pretty negative ideas about these open-mics. They’re often in divey bars. The players are sometimes not that great. I used to get the idea that all the other players were merely ‘wanna-bees’ and that I, of course, was ‘the real thing.’ All of these shitty thoughts naturally lent themselves to my having a lackluster time, and prevented me from connecting with anybody at the bar in a meaningful way before, during, or after my set.

I have quite a few Reality Jockey 12″s on hand still. Tonight I’m going to bring a few LPs and CDs in my backpack and give them away in exchange for audience emails. To respect the value of peoples’ email addresses, the LPs and CDs will cost $15 and $10 otherwise. Honestly, the merch is not really a priority for me at these things, but it does afford me an excellent opportunity to connect with the crowd, and also get my music into hands of ostensibly interested ears (do hands have ears?). Might also help me get a beer or to without having to dip into my bank account.

On the tech side, I am currently in possession of my Buddy Z’s Zoom H4N handheld audio recorder, which I’ll set up wherever it appears I can get a good signal that’s not too loud (and where I can keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get nicked whilst playing, although I don’t expect that kind of business at Paddy Mac’s.)

So. Here we go. I’m jumping in!

Thanks again and always for reading, and giving me a platform to put ideas out there, and inspiring me to action!

-WS