With no immediate gigs and an assumption that any gigs I do book will be many weeks down the road, I’ve decided to look for the gigs while I tour the many open mics that Chicago has to offer. My first visit: Davenport’s
I chose this location because it looked like a piano bar – I wouldn’t have to haul my digital piano around! I could just sit down at the piano and play a few songs for a crowd of other up-and-coming artists! Right?
Well, mostly right. I arrived to find a handful of people, some with instrument cases, many with binders and music books…and they proceeded to sing numbers from showtunes I had never even heard of with one of the house pianists, George Howe, whipping through the tunes like they were paper towels. I thought many things –
“I have to ask this guy to leave the piano so I can play my measly little tune?”
“Am I the only one doing an original song here? I think these are showtunes, but they may as well be originals, as I’ve never heard of them”
“All my songs are pretty personal, or they’re a little rage filled…this place doesn’t seem the right fit”
“Damn these people can sing”
“9 bucks for a Fat Tire? *sob*”
I think I just have to get used to big city alcohol prices.
So, feeling a bit out of place, my turn arrived and I politely asked George to take a quick break at the keys. I sat down in my usual introverted manner (at least I assume so, what with the mental state of performing having that strange effect on memory), avoided eye contact, boldly muttered my name (but not as it appears on this or any other website), and played Mr. Wrong (You Aren’t Me) on an acoustic piano for the first time.
That piano has some miles on it. Rolls didn’t work too well…good thing the main lick in the song I had chosen (as well as many licks in what I introduced to the crowd as ‘the self-indulgent piano solo’) is based around a roll, and I think I dropped a beat somewhere, but the performance went well, and the audience warmly received it.
I didn’t hear much about it until I played my next song, maybe 75 minutes (and 12 ounces of beer) later. But it didn’t seem like a long 75 minutes. Some people had come out of the cabaret at the back of the bar, and I had started to hear some songs I recognized: “Tonight You Belong to Me” (not to be confused with Taylor Swift’s award winning “You Belong to Me”), “Somewhere That’s Green”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, and Prince’s “Kiss”.
And some other original artists had risen out of the woodwork, and they all played wonderful stuff. I started to feel a bit more at home.
The one person I had talked to since I’d arrived had already left, so despite feeling a little more comfortable with the atmosphere, I was still unsure of what the audience thought of my stuff. I had clearly chosen the wrong song the first time around (or at least the wrong time to play it). I wouldn’t make that mistake this time.
So for my second song, I sat down and played a slightly nervous, slightly up-tempo version of Picture Yourself.
The immediate response was not unlike that of the first song (though there were at least twice as many people there)…
But I was glad to see that no one there let me stay inside of my shell. I had tried to talk to other people and tell them they were great (which they were), but it seemed as though this place was chock full of regulars.
And the regulars started coming to me and complimenting me. Maybe I fit in this place after all.
It might have helped that I cheekily admitted to having never heard of the musical “Gypsy”.
I’d say my first open mic was a success…though I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of other people trying to break into the original music scene or people looking for keyboard players for their pop/rock band, I had definitely played for a very receptive and welcoming (not to mention extremely talented and music-savvy) crowd, and I hope to see them again soon.
1. I need to do some showtune homework
2. I’m just freakin fine the way I am
3. I’m working way too hard on lyrics.
If only I could think of rhyming “thousands” with “bows and…”