It had been a dry spell for gigs, I hadn't been away with work for around four months, so I started looking for a new one. Just cruising the Internet, to see if there was anything going on nearby. I was quite pleased to find that a tavern near to where I live was hosting Open Mic nights! I contacted the organiser and he was happy to fit me into a spot, which I played last night.
What's an Open Mic you say?
Just that - a microphone, that is open to anyone who wants to use it. Generally they will be set up with all the sound system you need, just bring along your instrument and plug in (and sing if you can...) They are an excellent first step to getting out there and performing. Polish up your best pieces, find your nearest open mic, and get down there for a slot.
I've been aware of open mic sessions around my town for a while, but the one that I was thinking of going had put me off, they only allowed original material, no covers. So I'd never pursued any. The advantage of the open mic over finding your own regular gig is that everything is there set up for you, just plug in and the organiser will set you up. You don't have to be a professional musician, it's about having a go. It's also ad-hoc, get a slot whenever you like that the organiser can fit you in. The disadvantage is that it isn't paid (ha ha) and you only get a short slot (45 mins in my case) whereas I have about 2-3 hours of material.
I surprised myself at how anxious I was. Being up on a stage with bright hot lights in my face, plugged into a big PA system (biggest I have ever played through) with just a small foldback to know what I was doing. I butchered a couple of songs ("what is wrong with you stupid fingers!" he thinks to himself) but I relaxed into it and played at least 5 or 6 songs at a good performance level. When I was flicking and slapping the body I was concerned - the big PA subwoofer was pounding out a thump, reflecting off the back wall straight back at me and it sounded out of balance. But Shaun (the organiser) assured me that wasn't what the audience was hearing. I like being able to hear exactly what the audience is hearing, so I can play to that sound. So I felt out of control. But sometimes it is good to let go of control and trust in others.
There was maybe 20-30 people in the audience, which I found out afterwards that half of them were regulars on the stage too - a ha, so it's a "scene"! The location isn't exactly Central Artsville, so it isn't currently attracting avid listeners of amateur musicians. But you know what - a couple of people in the audience "got" what I was doing, and that is enough for me.
After the performance I spoke to a couple who do regular open mics and other musician get together things, and they gave me more insight into what/where/who. I also spoke to Shaun for a while about what he does - he's a musician/teacher/manager, does gigs, manages some bands, runs two open nights, fills gig bookings. He is an amiable chap, obviously loves everything about music and the scene and gets behind everybody in it. He asked if I had cards/photos/setlist, occasionally he gets asked for my kind of gig - just one bloke playing background instrumental covers of well known and popular music. That's what I would like to do, from time to time nice little gigs, but I have a busy day job and wifey and kids that I want to spend time with. It's all about priorities huh?
So overall it was good fun, I enjoyed it. Will definitely do it again. I watched some of the other acts, there was a boy on before me singing over backing tracks, wow, I wish I had that sort of confidence, he was hitting Jackson 5 type high notes and all - not my cup of tea, but great job! A guy on after me was playing heavy distorted guitar covers and singing, with backing instruments, a serious rocker from way back obviously knows what he is doing and was pretty good at it, again, not my cup of tea but great job! After him was a duo, a chic singing and a bloke on guitar. All original stuff, man they had put some serious work and effort into it from the looks of things. And it came across great. I even remembered one of their songs, "Hindsight", a catchy groovy piece. Well done! I bailed out before the final act which would have been good to see, a trio. Next time.