Friday, May 28, 2010

The May Ultimate Thursday Open Mic at Cafe Caffeine

May Day! May Day! Indeed...

For some reason it felt a little like the Gong Show last night, and I was the gong. Well, as the event organizer I was sort of gonged, but as a performer things turned out all right.

If April was slow, last night was almost a dead stop: regulars Southernmost Smoke and Gary DeVries showed up, as did a couple of college guys (Michael and Daniel -- apparently they don't give out last names with final grades). And we had a youth activist poet, too. Ordinarily I'd try to maintain a songwriters only protocol, but we needed voices on stage, plus this was a young woman poet, and we need women's voices as the OM tends to be male dominated.

Smokey got things rolling or, rather, I did, with my song, Texas Angel, a bluesy number on which Smokey played along. I don't think I've ever seen Smokey so chipper. He explained his nickname to me for a start. He went to college in Key West, the "southernmost" city in the U.S., farther south than Brownsville (with whom there's some sort of "how low can you go" rivalry, latitudinally speaking). Friends gave him the moniker to use for his business: Stone and, uh, pipe carving. Now you know where the "Smoke" comes from, right? Smokey did a couple of classics: San Antonio Rose and the Tennessee Waltz, plus a couple other harp numbers in between, then he skedaddled to meet an infirm friend.

Our female poet/activist, Lindsay Coley, took the stage next for a pair of poems ("Youth" and "Old Enough To Kill" the latter about young soldiers who can't get served in bars 'cos they're not 21). After youth activist poetry more active youth: The young men of college and no last names took the stage for original and recently "learned" songs. The best was an original number about Facebook. Whatever that is. Ah, young people these days! In Smokey's day they carved pipes for a living; now them youngsters are all connected to Senator Stevens tubes (Die Stevenstube!).

Gary D. played a trio of tunes that are familiar to regulars; he sings so damned well! Sort of like Paul Simon if he'd worked some blue collar or manual labor gig for a living and played music with Simon Garfunkel on the side.

And, sadly, that was it for the guests. Three of our regulars phoned or e-mailed me earlier to say they couldn't make it; the others? Whither the others? So I got up and played. A lot. I strummed Elvis Costello's (The Angels Want To Wear My) Red Shoes for our audience member from Phoenix, a professed Elvis fan. I hope I got the right Elvis (Red suede shoes...toe-MAY-toe...toe-MAH-toe...). After that I did a bunch of songs The Late Joys don't perform: new tunes (Sweet Pretenses, Little Swimsuit), acoustic versions of former LJ blasts (Bloody Little Numbers Game, Haymarket Rain) and some really old stuff that surfs well under the radar (Extra Ordinary, We're Going Steady Now). I did the slow, original version of Just Like Gravity, and when the recently transplanted Phoenician requested I play a song in the current LJ repertoire, out came Everybody's Going Away. Toss in Land of 1,000 Girls and you can see why on the one hand I was having a good time performing, while on the other I was wondering where the heck everyone else could be last night -- they missed so much stage time. Ah well, we'll catch them next time 'round.

Speaking of next time 'round I have some ideas on garnering a bigger crowd of musicians for June (assuming there is a June O.M.!). And that's beyond guilt-tripping all the no-shows into playing!

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