My recent post touched on open mics because I wrote it on the way to and at an open mic. So it was meant as friendly advice to fellow singer songwriters. And I hinted at the fact that open mics are often terrible.
In fact I swore off open mics in my younger years when I saw how much of an insular circle jerk they can be.
There are 2 kinds of polar opposite shitty open mics.
1. The all in. This is what you see in dive bars. Where no matter who shows up they get equally ignored and the audience has zero expectations of having fun, they’re either there to drink in which case they’re being assholes and know it, or they’re there to see their one assholes friend and they’ll be assholes before during and after that friend’s set. And everybody leaves before the end so the people playing last play to no one.
2. The in-club. If you go to an o.m. and everyone is inexplicably cheering for certain people who aren’t great and then later those people are taking your drink order to then you know you are just in a clubhouse. The staff, friends, and regulars all support each other with aggressive glee and then loudly talk amongst themselves for everyone else. They’ll stay the whole night and even after hours but it doesn’t matter because they give no fucks about anyone outside the clique.
No matter how good or bad you are there’s usually no point going to an open mic for very long. Which ever mic you end up at its good to test your mettle but other than that nothing good comes from attending a standard open mic.
And yet I’ve been going to 2 monthly O.Ms.
I went to the Odyssey open mic because a manager at work suggested we go support it. I like feeling included so I went. The first time was alright, an okay mixed of fun amateur musicians and some comedy. We had drinks after and it was great. The second time was a bit frustrating because the audience quadrupled and it was table after table of shitty loudmouth hipsters who scream for their friends and back-turn the performer and talk at a screaming volume the rest of the time. And both times the amount of people playing covers was pathetic.
When it’s loud and most people are just waiting to play, you can’t really try out anything new. You got half a chance to wow them with your best, loudest, most engaging stuff. Which as I said is a good lesson. It’s one step up from busking which is where I learned most of the tools in my tool box.
So I’m still going to go next month. But after that we’ll see.
And so now onto the absinthe cafe. The Odyssey and the Cafe are once a month and always end up being back to back.
The key difference between the two is the audience. At cafe the audience is interested and open minded and people have done everything from stand up comedy to astrology physics presentation. I’ve always debuted new songs there and I’ve even read poetry which was greatly rewarding but having a receptive audience, not having to bring your A+ game just to get there attention, is the only way to take a chance on doing stuff like that.
Plus the absinthe cafe has retro video games.
I really like being nervous and taking risks. That’s why at cafe I stopped playing the songs people expect like Solitary Light and so forth because I’d rather be terrified to try out some poetry and have it go 8/10 and then feel elated as opposed to going to the Odyssey and playing my go-to best material that I’m bored with and having to be a carnival barker and comedian to get anyone to notice that there’s even someone performing. And if I get compliments after a set like that I don’t really care. If I play songs I know everyone likes I’m not surprised when people like them.
Even at Greystone shows, while I know it’s a priority to do what we do best, it’s why we always do an unheard song because I like to keep things exciting and edgy and not over-rehearsed.
So if you have an open mic you love or a horror story I’d love to hear about it.