Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Open Mic, October 6, 2008

So....last week I was writing that the community at Sidewalk is one that is constantly regenerating. This was prompted by noticing that the fellow performers who started at Sidewalk around the same time as I did were around much less frequently these days but that a new group was on the rise. Well, tonight I was surprised to find just about the exact opposite. The room was filled with folks who represented a much earlier generation of Sidewalk regulars. I was happy to see Nan Turner, and was chatting with her and Preston for a while where we were sitting down front by the sign-up table. I stayed there during sign-up and a stream of folks like Jason Trachtenberg, Jeff Lewis, Dibs, Betsy, and Frank Hoier signed up. Plus others were there to hang out like Neil Kelly, Abby T. and Phoebe (who eventually ended up playing). With other longtimers like Bernard King, Jon Berger, Jon XXXX (redacted by request) on hand it was weird, really, almost like a reunion of a certain segment of the Sidewalk crowd. I'd gotten to know several of these folks over the years but many of them represent a period before I'd started playing there regularly.

During his opening spiel Ben Krieger talked a bit about the birth of his new daughter--and the methods he and Kat are developing for getting the most sleep possible. He then kicked things off with his song about the King of the Ocean and with "Lightning Man." It seemed as if we moved through the list quickly, even during the two-song round. Sam Berry, Dave Bellicose, and Changing Colors were among the early performers.

Jon Berger explained that somehow for the first time his pants have been getting looser...rather than the opposite. After that observation he moved ahead with several of his poems that seemed to win over the audience. Jon mentioned his upcoming performance on Tuesday on the same bill with Dibs and Sara (Dibs is kicking off a weekly Tuesday residency this week). He finished up the set with his trademark walk through the audience while passing out flyers and reciting his last poem. A nice set from Jon.

Then Nan Turner played a couple songs--she started off with a rock tune on guitar and then played piano on a Schwervon tune. It had been a long while since I'd seen Frank Hoier play the Open Mic and it was nice to see him there. He did "Jesus Don't Give Tax Breaks to the Rich." which he explained he wrote during his period of "Dylanitus," and he also played a yodeling tune, which he said was inspired by Jimmy Rogers.

Well gosh darn, my notes are a bit sloppy here, so I'm going to miss a performer or two. I think it was John Cameron (?) who sang a couple energetic folk tunes including one about the middle class getting fucked in the ass. He was quite charismatic about the whole thing.

Betsy performed a song with Preston and then called a whole gang on stage, including Neil, Heiko, Phoebe, Jeff Lewis, Joanna Kelly, Nan, Abby and Frank to back her on her tune "If you want something done around here you got to do it yourself." It sounded like an old traditional folk-y kind of song but is one I undestand that she wrote.

Dibs played with Sara B. I hadn't seen Sara perform at Sidewalk in quite a while, and it was nice to see her back there as well. She and Dibs sang a song about Canada that was, as I remember it, a story of the history of Canada as a hockey game. Charming stuff.

Joanna Kelly played a song that she said she would never play again. Shhh. We weren't supposed to talk about it. Jason Trachtenberg was funny as usual. He did the English version of "Everybody Loves the Clown." He said that recently he'd performed it in German and was aiming to translate it into all the romance languaghes. He also did "I Don't Want to Tempt Time" which he indicated could be his big hit.

A group called "Beards" played, and they all had beards. They were a three piece group with vocals, guitar, and violin, and they played some nice gentle songs.

Becca (will get her last name next time) did a nice job on piano with a Sarah Palin inspired song that sounded something like an old parlor song. Nice piano playing, Becca.

Tess, who explained she was stranded in New York, did a number on the auto harp. Heiko played a song called "Dashan's Kitchen." It was kind of a "not love song" if there is such a thing. Or maybe an inverted love song is a better way to put it. In other words he said it was embarassing to sing love songs, so he kind of made up a love song to a plastic kitchen (I think I heard him correctly when he said that!).

Jeff Lewis presented one of his large-scale comic books. He explained that he'd always wanted to do a detective movie, and this was his version of one. He also mentioned that it wasn't finished yet as it was still just in black and white although he said that was in character with the film noir nature of the story. Anyway, his comic drawings are really good. Good concepts and excellent drawing skill, plus the story, brief as it was, had interesting twists off of the stereotypical 1940s detective movie.

I went out to schmooze a bit and came in just as M. Lamar was finishing up (sorry I missed you Reginald)

I did hear Preston do his song asking to be cryogenically frozen. Very much a Preston song, and very funny.

Brook Pridemore played the ukelele. I love when he does that. But I noticed he didn't even take off his backpack while performing.

Eli M. had sort of the sleeper hit of the night with his song "God's Mom," which was very funny. He got some unexpected vocal accompaniment from (it sounded like) Jeff and Phoebe who did some brief harmonizing.

Then Phoebe played a song about her style of convincing a boy to walk her home. Very sweet, Phoebe.

For us boys it's nice to hear what the gals are thinking about in regard to that kind of stuff. You can really get some insights by listening to what folks sing about, can't you? When I was growing up I would always somehow detach the message of a song from its performer. I almost felt like the songs I loved sprung out of the songwriting ether--not out of the personality, emotions, and experiences of the people who wrote them. But after getting to know people and then hearing what they sing, you often can see how the songs relate to some aspect of their lives (even if the songs aren't really literal). And from that you also gain a perspective on songs by other writers you don't know personally. Not that the songs have to be autobiographical or overly personal to be effective, but that's a different, more complicated topic for another time.

As I indicated in an early post and I'm sure will say again, one of the most alluring aspects of the Sidewalk scene is the sense of community it offers. It can be very comforting to walk into a room in which you have some sort of connection to many of the people. My own connections were a bit peripheral to some of the folks I mentioned who were there tonight but somehow I really like the fact that Sidewalk is a nexus for a group of interrelated people with all these overlapping points of friendship. There are constantly little mini-communities developing that then often merge into the larger group as people from different circles/eras start to meet. So I sometimes feel as if we're all part of some great lineage that starts at Sidewalk.

Again, I was sorry I had to leave when I did as there were still many folks left to play. But that's how it is, I suppose. Till next time.

By the way, where was Debe Dalton?


1 comment:

  1. Brook doesn't leave his backpack unattended ever since someone dumped it out and took some valuable stuff. Watch your packs, folks...bad people--not the musicians--walk into the Sidwalk specifically to steal stuff.