Open Mic Therapy Tour: Part 2

Every silver lining has a cloud. That is my way to say that I didn’t win the jackpot Powerball. I was going to cure Huntington’s Disease with what was left after paying my bills. I guess it will have to wait a while. And although I will be in Reno for a week or so, casinos are not my thing. I am working on some nice projects for my design business and that is more encouraging. Work will keep me occupied while my sister, Barbara rests from her hip replacement surgery.


My Open Mic Therapy Tour continues. My obscurity is intact. After visiting the Town Crier Cafe in Beacon, NY on my anniversary, I have visited The Luthier’s Open mic in Easthampton, MA a few times and Marty and I drove out to Framingham to the Amazing Things Art Center open mic. It is interesting to see how each is set up and to hear the community of musicians there. It feels great to be on stage again. I seem to be saying less and less about Kathy and Huntington’s Disease on stage. I just play it by ear (pardon the music reference) and the situations never seem appropriate.

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Luthier’s Co-op open mic, Easthampton, MA.

Luthier’s. My friends at Luthier’s know my story anyway. They created the Amherst benefit for Kathy and have supported me mentally and fiscally through the years. I will always be grateful to all of them. Just before New Year’s, my friend Charlie and I drove up there. It was a fun night. I made a feeble attempt to film my two songs on my phone but I didn’t bring my tripod. When I went to see my recording, I had a blurry photo of the ceiling. My friend and open mic host, Dan Russell did get this photo which I stole from his Facebook feed.

Lost & Found. Charlie and I drove home to Hampden. It was then that I realized my cell phone was missing. Crap! I looked in my guitar case. I looked on the floor of the car. Crud! I tried calling it with my home cell phone. No Ringy Dingy!

Selfie with MotoG. I wonder if AT&T calls it a GoPhone because it works in the can.
Selfie with MotoG. I wonder if AT&T calls it a GoPhone because it works in the can.

But then I remembered that since it is a Moto G it is registered with Motorola. I logged onto the Motorola site and it found my phone was still wandering in Easthampton. I tried calling Luthier’s but of course, they were closed. I did send emails and Facebook messages to ask them to keep an eye out for it. My fear was that it was in the slush or snow outside. That would, of course, force me to get a new phone. But the time is not right for getting another phone with my finances. The next morning I drove up and waited for them to open up at 11. There it was, next to the sound booth. The owner said it was on the floor, flashing in the dark when he came it. It must have fallen out of my pocket. It was good to have my old, slow, inadequate friend back with me. There was plenty of battery left, too.


Framingham. The following week Marty and I made the trip to Framingham. Amazing Things Art Center is in an old fire station in the original downtown area of Framingham. Considering how many times I have been to that part of the state I didn’t even know there was a downtown. But they are rebuilding and restoring the whole area. Most of the businesses that are part of that district display hanging star light fixtures in their storefronts and in their shops. They should be proud of what they are trying to do. That is the good news. The bad news is that the night Marty and I went, they were in the middle of heavy all-night construction. ALL of the streetlights and ALL of the traffic lights were out. There were a few of those huge highway floodlight systems set up to give you a rough idea of where to drive. And there were oversized four and five way stop signs set up. Although I play music by ear I don’t like to drive by ear. It all worked out, though.

StarlightsFramingham
Star lamps in the storefronts

ShoppersWorldOpeningPageI do remember going to Framingham as a kid with my family in the 50s. We all wanted to see Shopper’s World, one of the first shopping malls in America. It was different from what we think of as a mall today. For one thing, it wasn’t a mega enclosed building. I remember it being like a two-level strip mall turned inside out. From these photos, it looks like a motel.2002154Shoppers.JPG.opt586x467o02C0s586x467The storefronts opened to a courtyard and a fountain in the middle. There were covered sidewalks for both levels. I read on Wikipedia that the dome of the Jordan Marsh store was reputed to be the third largest dome in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. The dome was used as a navigational landmark for airliners. It seemed like a perfect idea at the time, but no one had built a mall  in New England before. Although I remember some wonderfully tacky Christmas decorations, in the Winter, unless you were in a store you would freeze. I think eventually they put up storm windows on all the walkways. It always seemed windy in there the few times I went. I’m sure it destroyed downtown Framingham, so I am glad to see the downtown coming back.

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but no one had built a mall in New England before. While I remember some wonderfully tacky Christmas decorations, when it was cold out you would freeze because dah! you were still outside. I think eventually they glassed-in all the walkways. It always seemed windy in there the two or three times I went. I’m sure it destroyed downtown Framingham, so I am glad to see the downtown coming back.


Marty and I left for Framingham early. I thought I would take some back roads part of the way. I was glad I went as far as Sturbridge because I started to remember some nice times Kathy and I had there. One year we went to Old Sturbridge Village on our anniversary. It was right after a big snowstorm and we had the whole village to ourselves because everyone was freaked out by the snow. But it was the 1830s there. And what’s a little snow? I still have a little tin candle holder that the town metalsmith gave to Kathy. 7a9926bd-a52d-4e6f-a26a-77ab3f14705cSturbridge was also the home for Woofstock for many years. Kathy loved to go there for her birthday. Woofstock is the big gathering of Bassets held each year by New England Basset Hound Rescue. Marty won the costume prize there one year as an airplane and almost won as the Yellow Submarine another year. Once Kathy started getting self-conscious about her movements and appearance we had to stop attending. I kept designing their T-shirts, though. I plan on going back this September with Marty although the location has changed.


Back to my Open Mic Therapy Tour. Sorry, I got side-tracked. We ended up getting to Framingham an hour and a half before the open mic. I gave Marty a nice long walk around the parking lot. Then I tried to kill time by walking around downtown in the dark. I was hoping to find a place I could get something to eat. But I didn’t see anyplace that served bassets. Once I was sure Marty was exercised and emptied, I put him back in the car and went into the art center. I was freezing by then.Amz-panorama-emptyI was still an hour early, but they let me go into the empty performance space. At least, I could start to warm up my guitar. Eventually, people started drifting in. Someone took my admission fee. Another fellow came in to get the video equipment set up. They film all the performances and broadcast them on local access cable. There was also a gallery upstairs in the center but I wasn’t sure it was open. So, I stayed put and walked around. It was my luck that they got a late start but it was a pretty full night of performers.

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Dan Cloutier, the host getting things going.
Keith Stockless, the feature act
Keith Stockless, the feature act


Dan Cloutier
, the host takes all the names and puts them in a bag and draws a random order. Then he tapes them together so he has a list to go from. Most of the open mics I have been to lately allow two songs for each performer. This open mic is set up so that each performer does one song on the stage with the sound system during round one. There is also a half-hour feature set. Tonight’s feature was Keith Stockless, a singer from Framingham but living in Scotland. He was a superb singer and guitarist. During round two the performers sit in a circle where new songs or works in progress are played. The other performers might sing or play along. Dan the host was an excellent writer and performer in his own right. He started the evening off with a new song he had written that captured the hope for new beginnings in the new year. It hit very close to home for me. As the performers got up and performed their songs I marveled at the diversity of music. There were two acts that were hard to categorize for this folky. A duo composed of a rapper and a bassist performing to a beat track. They both had colored hair or wigs. Then there was Tone-man. He played his Les Paul through a series of stomp boxes that gave it a chilled out looping quality. The rest of us were more conventional. A performer that really impressed me was named Eva Walsh. She was also on an “open-mic tour.” After receiving classical training in strings, she moved to Boston. She performed in a band for a while but is working on a solo career. So, she is going back to the open mics she started with. She played guitar and sang an original song when her turn came.


My turn came after the feature act was finished. I decided to do Marriage of Convenience because I stopped for gas at a Cumberland Farms on the way there.

 

I think I did ok. The sound was much better that the video indicates by the way. Part of the reason I am trying to record these things is to learn from them. This was played with my fingers but I think this particular song may work better with a flat-pick. And I edited out my introduction because that was forgettable. Marty and I made it home by one a.m.

Round two: the song circle. I must have sneezed while I took this panorama. Sorry.
Round two: the song circle. I must have sneezed while I took this panorama. Sorry.

Back to Luthier’s. At Luthier’s Open Mic they pick each performer one at a time. The main reason is to keep people from leaving without listening to the other performers. People are usually very courteous. Usually. We went back on Wednesday night and the bar atmosphere was winning out over the music atmosphere. Sometimes you can over plan everything you are going to do and when you get there you need to punt. Since Charlie and I were both picked early in the line-up, the audience was still talking about their new year’s resolutions and what they were going to do with their Powerball winnings. I backed up Charlie while he played two ukulele songs for the first time. When it was my turn I had planned to have a musician named Dan join me on saxophone. My fall-back plan was to do two older songs. But with the noise level I had to pick a different set of loud songs. It’s actually good training for me. I can remember having to ‘perform’ in situations that were challenging. There were too many times that I let it show on my face. “Not listening to Moi?” But the reality is that it is an opportunity to work through some different materials. And especially at Luthier’s, there were plenty of folks listening. The audience started to quiet down later on in the evening.


On Sunday, I am off to Reno to nurse my sister Barbara back on her feet. I also have a bunch of graphic work to do while I’m gone, too. Maybe I can sneak in a Reno open mic while I’m there.

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