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Live Again September 28, 2012

Posted by craftlass in music, video.
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For just over a week I’ve been in Saratoga Springs. I’ve always loved this town but this is my first visit as an adult, not counting a single concert that I barely remember because we just went to the venue and left. I have a house to myself and a car at my disposal, which is a very weird existence for me these days that I’m quite enjoying. Even housekeeping is kind of fun when there is some elbow room, it turns out.

The first couple of nights I went out with some of my favorite people. Seeing friends you don’t get to see very often is such a precious thing, there’s a heightened sense of fun to everything you do and every word you exchange. Long-overdue hugs are the best hugs of all, too. It’s invigorating, like suddenly remembering parts of you that you had forgotten about, because the reflection you see in people who understand you at all is a much more accurate reflection than the one you see in a mirror and the image is taken less for granted when you are not used to seeing it all the time. Rehashing good memories is also quite the reminder of how good life is and can be.

Since then I’ve been primarily snuggling the cats I’m watching, enjoying new television (hooray for premiere week!), working on new music, and just enjoying the abundant nature as autumn begins in earnest. It’s been fantastic and I wasn’t particularly wanting to interrupt the flow last night. The thing is, it turns out that Caffe Lena has an open mic on Thursdays. Caffe Lena is an icon of folk music history in America. The oldest continuously-run coffeehouse in the country, it quickly became a jumping-off point for many of my musical idols, like Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris. They take music very seriously, with no-whispering and even no-glow (i.e. no using phones or cameras, even silently) rules at their shows. Luckily, they aren’t quite as strict at their open mic, as you will see, but it is very quiet and respectful, all about the music. No alcohol is served, just homemade cookies and coffee. It’s definitely not your typical open mic at a crowded bar!

Okay, confession, I sort of hate playing in that environment. My ideal performance setting involves glasses clinking, chatter, and a lot of smoke in the air. Unfortunately, the last exists in few places that I go anymore. Still, I would put up with a lot more than silence and the ability to see the audience just to play a tune or two on that stage.

I haven’t played out in awhile for various reasons and right now I’m focused on writing and prepping songs to record. It’s nice to focus like that, and sometimes necessary, but it’s also important to get out and connect with an audience. After all, music is about communication and I’ve been set to silent mode for some time. The last time I was back home on a Wednesday I played my favorite local open mic for the first time in ages and it felt really good to just be out there again in the safety of familiar faces, especially after such a hiatus.

Performing at an open mic in a different town, in a room full of people who have never heard you before, is quite a bit different.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in that situation.

I LOVED it.

No expectations, nobody asking to hear the songs they know, no pleas to bring out something new, no bar set high or low. Just a voice and a guitar and the naked fury that is unleashing your music on an unsuspecting crowd. At least, you hope that’s what you do.

Then there’s the fun of hearing people you would never have heard any other way, from the scared beginner with a beautiful (if tentative) voice to the aging folkie playing the beloved songs of his youth with the ease that comes only with time, and all the passionate artists between. There’s a camaraderie at a well-run open mic that rarely grows in other environments and it not only fosters a supportive audience but often excellent conversation afterwards.

Right after I walked in and put my name in the hat for their sign-up lottery (a clever solution to the sign-up issues that plague many an open mic) I met a really nice guy who has been attending off and on for years. I wound up sitting with him all night and he sort of acted as a guide, pointing out participants I might particularly like and chatting about music in general between songs. He even kindly shot video of me performing two of my songs and let me upload it from his phone to my YouTube Channel.

The best part? Once again, playing Bake Sale for NASA got a lot of space discussion going, garnered huge cheers, and it even turned out that one of the other performers is a huge space geek who was really excited to meet another one and talk Hubble pictures and Martian rivers. Mission accomplished, at least for one night. I just love making people think.

It’s easy to just flow through life in your comfort zone, especially when in a good relationship with a comfy home and some nice toys, but the only way to be thoroughly alive is to get out there, do what you have to prod yourself into doing, and LIVE a little.

Will someone please remind me of this once in awhile?

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