Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Open mike at Club Passim...and a great joke...

It's not because I'm cheap or unemployed with pittance trickling into my bank account. If I had a million dollars I'd still like a good deal and music and finding those great, simple places that put it all together.

Tuesday night is open mike at Club Passim in Cambridge. It's five bucks, or free if you're a member like me. Sue takes guitar lessons from Janet Feld at Club Passim's music school that night, so I go into Cambridge with her and hang out in the club. (I take music theory from Ray Chesna there, but that's fodder for a different posting.)

I've always been a big fan of open mikes. Years ago I saw the likes of Jay Leno, Bob Goldthwait, Lenny Clark, Steven Wright, Tony V, and a boatload of other Boston comedians try out there stuff before they made it big at open mikes at places like the Comedy Connection when it was still at the Charles Playhouse. And if memory serves, the cover was about a buck or two. What a great deal.

Like all open mikes, the one at Club Passim is always a crap shoot. The audience is friendly and supportive to all the acts, especially when someone is struggling. They are always appreciative of good work. To a person, everyone there really loves and cares about music and songwriting.

Some nights you get to see a lot of real up-and-coming talent. Other times it's really spotty. There's no guarantee that the people you're watching will be the next Tracy Chapman or Bob Dylan. A lot depends on luck and drive and talent. For every Jay Leno I saw at the Comedy Connection, I watched a lot of (mostly) guys just bomb. But that's not the point of going. It's seeing the works in progress. It's watching the fits and start. The falling down and getting back up again. It's finding that little gem of a moment whether it's new song or strum pattern or maybe just a line in some lyrics.

Last night was a typical night. One woman sang a song about a guy and a girl not getting along very well, with this line in it: I'm a thief and not a liar so I'm going to keep my mouth shut.

There was a bluegrass duo, guitar and fiddle, named The Whiskey Brothers. The two were so young they didn't look old enough to order, much less drink whiskey, but they played one song called, Block Island that was just so nice and sweet. Hard at some points with some deep bass, I imagined the waters off Block Island.

And toward the end there was a guy named Joel (I didn't catch his last name but he's in the picture above) who finger-picked his way through a song about a road, just perfect and mournful.

Along with musicians, there's a comedian who performs regularly, and an actor who recites poetry. One time I was there and he recited nursery rhymes. That night it wasn't my thing, but another night I listened to him recite a litany of poems about ravens. On and on he went, and it takes a few nights but you start to get a real appreciation for what's going on inside that man's head, whatever it is. There's a comedian, I believe his name is Michael Fast--I hope that's his name; I want to get it right--who is constantly trying out new material. I'm kind of critical and sympathetic of comedians having done stand up before. He has kind of a crazy, deadpan, intentionally dumb way of delivering, and last night he told this joke: I read that book about woman being from Venus and men being from Mars, and I think there's something to that. I met this woman, and we got along, and one night we slept together and when I woke up the next day I noticed she had crop circles in her chest hairs. Okay, it's weird, but it's Cambridge, and that's funny.

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