Of Open Mics and Open Jams

She Sang has it covered mostly. So these are residual farthings from the other one.

Quite recently, a good friend of ours, aka a grouchy old bastard, was troubled enough to actually pause and consider whether he should stop his huge band jams and give up the energy they bring to both the venues they play in, and the troop of musical performers that have grown into family… Something about some other acts or artists talking about how the band jams hurt the music scene (and themselves, obviously)… So I started to think – “how exactly do the band jams hurt these (I assume) individuals?” It has to be in terms of money, I guess? Or could it also be poking at something else?… I’ll give my 2 farthings on this later…

She sang has just written about how we both have grown so significantly because of our collection of experiences that include paid gigs, community events, and yes, open mics. She is quite correct that every different element in our collected experience all served in helping us grow wiser and grow better. When we were true newbies 5 years ago, we had but only a handful of songs that we have arranged. It was guitar and bells and vocals. It was sitting down. It was nervous insecurity. It was a lot of uncertainty. Looking back then, we were sooooo green…. I lapped up the praise from hosts and co-players as acknowledgement that, at least, we didn’t suck, that at least, we got some level of ability.

After some time, the abilities gradually got better and more stable. So did the singing. And the nerves. And the set list also grew. It grew from the support of open mic hosts and other players, many of whom have become good friends. It also grew from observing behavior of those who respected and supported the open mic events. So we tried to emulate that kind of positive behavior. It also grew from observing behavior that was less than stellar. We started to recognize the difference between people who played to grow musically vs people who played to pose. In any case open mics and open jams are always helpful for our growth.

@ one of our regular go-to open mics
@ one of our regular go-to open mics

We so appreciate our growth through open mics like those of Paul Sanner, and Steve+Lesli, Marshall Still, Eddie’s Attic, Wade Sapp, EOwens @ Red Clay, Bones and Nate @ Niks, etc. We still continue growing at open mics. Sometimes the night is a hit. That helps to validate our effort. Sometimes it is not. That helps to review our effort. In few cases, we always get to meet new people and build unexpected links – like doing the open jam at Dixie’s which led us to meet Charlie and Darryl, which led us to the jam then at Local’s which introduced us to Barry, Dana, George, and Jim, which eventually led us to Lefty’s jam at Bella’s, where we met John McKnight and that led to Darwin’s ProJams, and to Bill Sheffield, then Nate Nelson which led to Niks, and so on… To me, it seems, every open mic and open jam came at the right time for a reason… all different, but all about growth.

Our drop-in-our-lap entry into Tin Roof and Ian Schumacher’s open mic nights also allowed us big growth. As She Sang recounted, the band of brothers/sisters there can be loud and competitive. But they do listen and and they do support each other. Real important in growing better. Most helpful are constructive critiques that Ian shares with us (we ask for it) and helps us address our technique, our musicality, and our selves. While the Acoustic Showdown makes us craft our originals to a sharper level, so do the Cover Wars in making us rethink and rearrange selected songs (like crazy, as you can see below).

hsss coverwars
(cross-dress, cross-gender singing @ Cover Wars… “My love…there’s only yoooo in my life…My first love… you’re every breath that i take…”)

I track this to remind myself how all these open mics and jams helped us become better. But let’s be clear. We are here as we are now. We are not who we were. This journey, so far, has taken 5 years of performing a musical practice. It is good. It is not easy. It is joy. It demands discipline. Every portion of our so-far history has been an album of little lessons in musicianship and friendship. And every little level of progress achieved brought us to a next step on which we were to learn new things : new ways to be better musically, new approaches to performing, new insights on presence, new knowledge on being more professional. As far as I can review this, no lesson came at a wrong time, and no lesson could be mastered with short cuts. Some lessons I am still working on (for quite some more time, surely). Looking forward to the next 5.

Oh before I go, to sort of go back again to those few (the not so happy few) that were complaining about how Freddy’s band jams were hurting the music scene (real odd because the band jam can only be in one place for each weekend, vs the soooo many other places in Marietta to play in…) as I was saying… to them complaining gents (and or ladies) : maybe, like the many other bands and singers and songwriters that have grown better with constant play and performance, you could join them open mics or open jams… or at the very least, put in more practice… and patience… and become better… before complaining.


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