The Mike at Tupelo Music Hall
Musicians of all stripes turn out
By Bruce Bressack firstname.lastname@example.org
To misuse an already overused, abused and misconstrued cliché — open mikes are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
The night of Feb.24 was no exception. All ages, backgrounds, musical tastes, and experience levels were on display at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry. There were plenty of young-and-nervous, why-in-the-world-are-you-up-there performers, as well as the I’m-too-cool-for-the-room, look-at-me-I'm-flying performers.
But, sporadically, you also saw the I-just-play-music-because-I-love-playing-music performers. The one stand-out in this category was ‘Hot Day at the Zoo'. [www.hotdayatthezoo.com]
How good were they?
Well, if it’s any measure, I bought their CD right after their set and I haven’t stopped playing it. And, I’m not a huge fan (or even a small fan) of five-piece string bands.
But, this band woke up the Tupelo that night, and probably shook a few neighbors’ homes as well. They were trained musicians, who knew their instruments, and (if memory serves me) they all sang (which is rare for a band these days).
The guitarist, Michael Dion, knew his chord progressions and sang with feeling and commitment. I just wish he were closer to the mike.
Another standout was bassist Jed “Beat” Rosen, who slapped that upright bass like the good lord intended!
This is a band worth watching and listening to. Catch their next show, and don’t forget to wear your toe-tapping shoes.
From the comfort of my seat
Before I offer up my observations about the rest of the night, let me say that it takes great courage — or lots of missing brain cells — to get up on stage and perform. I think I witnessed both that night.
And, as we all know, it’s easy to sit in the audience and think you can play or sing better. But, if that was the case then you’d be up there, right?
But, having been to a number of open mikes over the years and with capo (and heart) in-hand, and the spirit of Woody Guthrie swirling around me, I offer these observations...
For the performers (dos and don’ts)
Don’t overplay the great songs. I know that Joni Mitchell song, and even Joni wouldn’t have stretched it to 12 minutes.
Don't overextend your welcome on stage. If you do, you’ll lose the audience ... just like I'm losing my Hippo readers right about now.
You know that before-the-song “rap” you did? Trust me, despite your best intentions, it was not Arlo Guthrie-ish. Keep it short; I know Arlo (and Woody) would appreciate it.
When you’re done performing, go back to your table and be quiet. That means not walking around and talking to everyone (and making it impossible for the rest of us to hear and enjoy the show).
For the audience (dos and don’t)
If the artist was really great, don’t hesitate to stand up and applaud (loudly). Great performers are always the most critical of themselves, so they need the most feedback from you to know that they got it right.
Conversely, if the artist really sucked, polite applause will do. Don’t overdo it, it’ll just foster and encourage their false belief in their talent. Sounds harsh, but your honest feedback will help an artist to grow.
Come to the open mike
Thanks to the good graces, and warm hospitality, of owners Scott and Elizabeth Hayward, open mikes are held the last Thursday of each month.
Performers arrive at 6:30 p.m. to sign up, and names are “drawn from a hat” to determine the show order. The music begins at 7 p.m., and concludes when the last note, of the last musician standing, is played.
Each artist has two songs (no time limit), and there is also a half-hour performance by a feature act that gets paid by “passing the hat.”
The Tupelo Music Hall is located at 2 Young Road in Londonderry. For more information, go to www.tupelohall.com
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