We’re playing at Joe’s on Friday (our first “weekend night”), so we were obliged to come to the Open Mic to (theoretically) spark interest. Unfortunately, it was Warren’s son’s birthday, so I had to go solo. I play solo a lot, so it shoulda been no problem — emphasis on “shoulda”.
The owner, Chuck, booked us for Friday (and two previous Thursdays “sight unseen”, and since then we’ve been getting the distinct impression that weekends (and Tuesday Open Mics, for that matter) are more “party” than “concert”. We’re not really a “party band”, but we’re already booked, so we’ll give it what we got, and try to play what passes for “harder” songs that I’m willing to play.
Accordingly, the idea was to try to show that off on this Tuesday thing, but without Warren, that’s even more unlikely. Still, I decided to go with “Mother Goose”, “Carolina In My Mind” (I know, not very “hard”), and “Five O’Clock World”. “Goose” to be my “rock cred” tune here, despite it being notoriously hard to get right. So, I practiced the heck out of it on my two 20-minute walks (with the electric guitar), and at home on the acoustic, got it down pretty well, and thought I might actually have a chance.
Emphasis on “thought”. I have plenty of excuses — the sound system, as noted here before, sucks, though last time it was tolerable. This time was the worst ever. I had forgotten that we’d learned that a big part of what’s wrong is that my (and Warren’s) guitar come out through the monitor speaker, but, for some reason, my head-mic does not. Other times, it was bad, but I could hear myself, somehow, enough that it wasn’t obvious that the vocal was completely missing from the monitor. This time, *very* obvious. My guitar was coming through almost hard enough to knock me over, but I couldn’t hear the voice at all. Scott the sound guy assured me that it was working, and I asked the audience if they could hear me, and they said they could, so I just had to go for it.
So I’m trying to play “Mother Goose”, and instinctively holding back on the volume of my strumming, which screws up my ability to strum at all (which is tenuous under *good* conditions). The Intro/Interlude that’s so hard (for me) to play goes bad, but not too bad. The rest of the song goes OK I guess, but I couldn’t hear it, so what do I know?
Oh, to make matters worse, although Chuck usually puts us on the sign-up list fairly early, this time I was very late. Late enough, in fact, that you don’t get three songs anymore, you get two. Of course, they told me that on my way to the stage, so I had to decide quickly which song to delete. It was tempting to scratch “Goose”, since I was afraid to play it, but that was the very reason I decided to keep it and scratch “Five O’Clock” instead.
So I launch into “Carolina”, chosen because it’s got a cool “hard” guitar part, which I’ve played so much I can do it in my sleep, so I figured I could redeem the fiasco that “Goose” was likely to be. Emphasis on “figured”, but I figured wrong. I got through most of it OK, but totally lost my place on the sheet (got cocky, no doubt), and stumbled through a big, and I mean big, chunk of the song. Kept singing, but was just fumbling with the guitar. You’d think (and I thought) that if you just play an “in this song somewhere” chord of some kind, you’d eventually come to a part that it fits to. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, right? No such luck, though. Somehow, eventually, I found where I was again, but what a disaster.
The cool part was that Scott, the soundman and frequent background singer with other guys in “the club”, and Sandy, who usually plays mean fiddle with various guys, were standing off to the side, singing harmony. They didn’t get on a mic, though, probably ‘cuz they don’t know me that well yet — and I couldn’t figure out a way to tell ’em it was OK while I was in the middle of the song. Come to think of it, that may have been the distraction that threw me… I complained vaguely after the song that they should have gotten on a mic, so maybe next time they won’t be so shy.
Anyway, afterwards, several of the other musicians told me it “sounded good”. Either they were being generous, or the mistakes weren’t as obvious as I thought, or maybe they were just referring to the non-mistakey parts, but that was nice to hear. I think it really did impress some of those guys that I was playing “Mother Goose” — that’s not standard Old-Guy-Folk-Rock repertoire. And some of those guys are scary-good, so it’s nice to get their attention.
As for the “we’re not a party band” concern, as I was leaving, I said to Chuck, “See you on Friday, but, you know, we’re not a party band”. He was totally, “Oh, you guys will be great”, and started telling the guy he was talking to when I walked up that we’d played ’til 11 the last time, and they had a great time playing “Stump the band”, which, by his recollection, was “impossible”. I remember them asking for lots of songs that I didn’t know, but apparently, being able to pull “Red Rubber Ball” off deleted all the “don’t knows” from his memory. He’s really looking forward to Friday. Me too, I guess.