Saturday, January 27, 2007


First Timers

I originally wrote this on July 28th, 2005. I re-read it for the first time last night. This is one of the main reasons I blog, to be able to recall memories like this. It was one of the most intriguing things I've ever seen, and it brought a smile to my face last night as the memory came back.

You're never going to change the world by playing at an open mic. That's a pretty simple statement, I suppose, but it could hardly be any truer. You're not going to effect any great social change or influence the price of a gallon of gasoline by simply deciding to play in front of people. That doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try, though.

I've been lucky enough over the last month or so to see lots of people play in front of folks for the first time. I can't tell you what a cool thing that is to see, to watch someone to nervously attempt to entertain an assembled crowd. I've never seen anyone not affected by it to some degree, they're all nervous, but I've never seen someone not leave the stage with a big smile either.

A couple of months ago it was Amanda Conway at Dunn Bros. You could see how nervous she was. She had obviously played quite a bit of guitar and had sung a lot. That's most of the skill you need when playing in front of people, but another important thing you need to learn is how to sing into a mic. Amanda could sing, the mic gave her a little difficulty, my guess is she didn't practice through a PA at home. Hey, who does? She's been playing at Dunn Bros every week now since then, she's one of my favorite performers. She has a sweet voice and writes most of her own material, her lyrics straightforward, but just quirky enough to keep my attention.

Three weeks ago I filled in for Joe as host of the Border's open mic. I'll admit that I don't get to that show as much as I should. Part of that is that I don't enjoy playing solo as much as I used to and TSA works on Tuesdays. Still I headed down and was pressed into "hosting" duties. Even a simple small show like Border's makes me respect the host of these things. The big thing is to keep everyone happy. It was looking like I wasn't even going to get to play, which I was actually OK with, but I found a slot for myself at the end of the night.

It was about then that a young mother with two kids approached me. I had seen her there every time I'd attended this show. Some people show up to these things because they like the music. I'll admit that if I were to have some horrible harmonica tragedy, I'd still show up to open mics just to listen. But her name was Amber and she wanted to play. "I don't play guitar or sing too well," she said, "but I have a couple original tunes I want to do."

I mean absolutely no disrespect when I say this, but she didn't play guitar or sing too well. It was her first time ever playing in front of people, nobody ever sounds their best under those circumstances. She was a better guitar player than me, though, and she was definitely good enough to do this in front of people. Her songs were really magical, very personal.

The thing about Amber is that I imagined her coming to Border's every Tuesday, packing her kids and her guitar into the car, thinking that this was the week she was going to play. For what ever reason she kept putting it off, the nerves simply getting to her. I don't want to take any credit for her decision to finally play, but I'm very happy that she decided to finally give it a go while I was hostng. If I had anything to do with her decision to play that night, I feel immeasureably better about myself as a person. Still, it doesn't change the price of gasoline here in Rapid City.


Oh, so now we get the Best of BOJ blog! Definetely jumped the shark... just kidding, and being the open mic addict that I've been I can certainly second the whole, nervous and not at ones best thing.. I recall what a revelation it was the first time that one guy told me to sing into the mic at cheers... wow I can actually hear what I'm doing now, and for better or worse the crowd can too!

I've "Jumped the Shark!"

...ladies and gentlemen... formerly of Patient 957... it's my honor to introduce...

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