Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm with the band

I work open mic night at the cafe, not for the money (because sadly there is very little of that to be made on open mic night) but for the music.

I love music. And bass players. But that is another story entirely.

We have a pretty phenomenal talent pool for such a tiny island - professionals, novices, quiet observers who turn into a completely different person with a microphone or instrument in hand. I love that - seeing another side of a person, another way to communicate. I love that anyone can create music, from the very young to the very old, male, female, deaf, mute, can be a quadriplegic on a ventilator - as long as you are at least semi-conscious you can create some form of music or rhythm. You don't need to have any special skills or abilities to have music in your heart.

Apparently, you also don't need to have any skill or ability to suffer through piano lessons for 4 years, but because I really *wanted* to play music my parents kept up the facade until I lost interest.

In high school I sang some, and performed some, and hung out at the Elks Club and the German Club and the VFW and any other small hole in the wall venue that someone's parents were willing to rent out for a night. Bands would gather, heads would bob, it was a blur of flannel and denim and pulsing rhythms that seemed so much bigger and more exciting when your friends were the ones on stage making it happen.

And for that night, that hour, that set - they were rock stars.

Open mic does that - 15 minutes of stardom. You have the room. You have a mic. You might have a beat up guitar that you borrowed from the dreadlocked dude in the next booth. You might have an ukulele you carry around in your backpack.You may have rolled in 20 deep with extra mics, a drum kit, 2 guitars, a bass and a keyboard. Moms come in and hand their baby to the bartender for 10 minutes reprieve, pull a guitar out of the bottom of the stroller and let loose all of the hurt and pain and anxiety and joy and laughter that they feel but cannot always express between feedings and diapers and naptime. We hear about heartbreak, and about true love, and about family and friends and history. We learn what makes people tick, and what ticks them off. And as the room fills with people, and music, and laughter, it is the same as it was, I imagine, hundreds of years ago. More beer, less mead, but still.......gathered, in a bar, sharing music and food and drink and laughter and calling out support for each performer, holding up lighters and shouting "Free Bird" at inopportune moments. Sometimes, at the end of their 10 or 15 minutes, people are greeted with shouts of "HANA HOU!" (Which means, for the uninitiated, "encore". I had to explain that to a visiting musician who came running up to the bar and whispered "what are they saying?" as people were shouting for her to continue.) Sometimes, they only get through half a song before it becomes too much and they have to stop and compose themselves, or just say "That's all I got, thanks for listening."

It's a microcosm, it is life all summed up in a few hours in one room, and when it is is very very good.
And even when it is bad, it's not so awful.

Except for the tips. The tips suck. But I'm doing it for the music, so it's all right by me.

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