Thursday, 16 August 2012

Open Mic Nights: The sublime to the sublime

I left you last time with the thought that an open mic night needs some element of tradition, a knowledge or certainty among both the muso and punter communities that an event will take place each week – no exceptions.

East End Bob, the landlord at The Plough, has been a bit moany the last couple of weeks. I don’t really think it is behaviour reserved specifically for me, but he has had something of a point. Not many musicians turned up after the first couple of (unexpectedly good) weeks, which had Bob a bit perturbed, it has to be said.

He’s a morose sort of bloke at the best of times, which often leads to a sort of laconic delivery. Add to that his hard east-end accent and a Churchillian speech defect, it is sometimes hard to decipher anything.

“I got a good crowd in Friday and Saturday… Well, not that good…” might easily have been: “I got a good cow in before I sat… Well, Noah Goo…” which can leave the listener a bit bemused. Fortunately (or unfortunately) his favourite phrases of ‘diabolical’ and ‘where are the punters?’ never seem to disintegrate into unintelligibility.

So it was that, after an evening (August 7th) that can quite legitimately be described as ‘quite good’ having had a good half dozen turns show up and perform to a good standard, East End Bob was forced to admit a pleasant evening, but (on the physical evidence of very few paying customers that were not musicians or singers) had to ask ‘where are the punters?’

Now, having performed – to some degree – all of my responsibilities, I was sorely tempted to say: ‘I’ve done my job, Sir Bob, now it’s time for you to do yours.’ But that, of course, would have been churlish. Instead, I pointed out that, after just five weeks, we had begun to establish our own crowd – nothing to do with either my regulars from Marlow, nor East End Bob’s regulars. A new crowd – The Plough’s Tuesday Night crowd.

Keep these people happy, I explained, and they will bring more people: more musos and more muso friends. ‘But why don’t my regulars stay?’ he asked (or was that ‘Brian Moore Wreckless Day’?). And the answer is (to the real question, not my silly corruption): ‘because they are not interested in small-time musos, their music, their egos and their friends.’

Forget them. For one night a week, I said, surely you can live without having the same old faces and the same old (let’s face it) ill-aimed and sorely lacking attempts at humour and socio-political commentary. For one night a week, let’s build a new, different crowd, all of whom are interested in small-time musos, their music, their egos and their friends.

And so it is coming to pass. After that initial 8 o’clock angst worrying that no-one will come, by 9 o’clock there is now a hardcore nucleus that will build into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Tuesday nights now sees good old Andrew Williams, along with Sassy Lozza and now Coolhand Sean seems to be something of a regular, as well as his mate, Falsetto Si, his singer, Carly Allie – and they have in turn now brought along a member of the Russian Mafia, Ilya (who does a mean Johnny Cash) and the delightful Whispering Heather. Add these to Diva Emma and Shakey Amy and you have the seed of a great, ongoing evening.

Once their friends start coming along, too, The Plough’s open mic night will be the talk of the town. It’s still going to take some time, but we’re getting there.

East End Bob spent most of the time I was packing up at the last evening saying: “But it’s hard work.” It certainly is, Sir Bob… That is unless you were actually saying: “But it’s artwork.”