Some events make it worthwhile to stay up past my bedtime. The Amsterdam Bicycle Club’s Monday night open mic has been going strong for almost five years and seems to attract not only a high caliber of music but a great diversity of styles. Rap, electronica, folk, originals, covers, solo and full band numbers all graced the stage. According to Justin, a regular at the ABC, it is also a community of musicians who are very supportive of each other.
The internet led me to believe that sign-up started at 9:30, music at 10:00, three songs/15 minutes per performer was the drill. It is such a popular spot that, in an attempt to get everyone on stage, sign-up actually started at 9:00, music at 9:30 and two songs per performer.
Special thanks to Justin, Michel & Laura, Kunle, and India for taking a moment to chat and making the night even more memorable!
[Amsterdam Bicycle Club 54 The Esplanade, Toronto; Mondays 9:30 pm (sign up at 9:00); no cover]
There has been a music-shaped empty space in Guelph for a while now. Once filled by the Magnolia Café and then by the Joint, the Red Brick Café took its turn last week hosting musicians on a Tuesday evening.
There was a very enthusiastic turnout, both performers and listeners. Original songwriting, old standards, spoken word all had their time at the mic. I know I am not alone in hoping that they invite the acoustic open mic folks back again – maybe once a month? It is a lovely venue for music (the Café presents many live music events), the snacks are good, the service is friendly. And the people who came out to play… a fine group of people!
[Red Brick Café, 8 Douglas Street, Guelph; licensed – stay tuned for further Tuesday night developments…]
I’m always excited to see a new forum dedicated to songwriters. There are many places to share well-loved covers and old classics but not enough where original songwriting is celebrated and given the spotlight. Jay Moore has launched just such event in Waterloo: Songwriters’ Showcase at the Churchill Arms – or just “The Churchill” as it is referred to by owner Bob Ringwood. Bob is a fan of folks coming together to share music. The Churchill is also home to a Tuesday night open jam, Wednesday Celtic jam, Thursday Blues night, and karaoke on Friday.
The inaugural event was held October 16th and featured Sing Me a River and David Lum. Performers shared stories (including tales of life-changing Nashville trips) and inspiration behind their songs. Hosting the event on a Sunday is a welcome change for those whose workdays don’t allow for late weeknight events.
The Songwriters’ Showcase will continue every Sunday afternoon with 3 song sets followed by a half hour feature set. Contact Jay (firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance to request a spot on the performers’ list.
[Songwriters’ Showcase at The Churchill Arms, 355 Erb Street West, Waterloo; Sundays 2:30-5:00pm, licensed, no cover]
What a treat it was to be at the Boathouse Monday night open mic. So much great creativity and spontaneous collaboration!
Two highlights of the night were – unfortunately for us – from performers that are leaving Ontario this month: Jeremy Stuart (off to Alberta) and Lydia Mainville (heading home to New Brunswick). It’s hard not to love Jeremy’s heartfelt songwriting, sweet voice and general authenticity. Cello/Voice/Loop/Magic is how one poster describes Lydia’s music. It is magical indeed, combining the traditional with original composition, layering sound that casts a spell.
Fortunately – Lydia is hosting the open mic for the next two weeks and both are doing a whirlwind of gigs before leaving so check out their FB pages for dates (Jeremy, Lydia).
And thank you to Midnight Run for the rousing Doobie Brothers cover : )
[Boathouse Open Mic, 57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener; Mondays 8 pm; admission by donation; licensed]
Up until this week I have stayed away from the songwriting groups that some of my musical friends frequent. My justification: I generally work on a song until I am happy with it and once I’m happy with it, I don’t want well-meaning suggestions about how to change it. It would be like suggesting another name for my child. And if I’m not happy with it, why would I perform it for others when it is clearly not ready?
I think participating in the SAC songwriting challenge shifted this mindset. First – instead of songs that came from a very intimate place of experience and emotion, the songs were assignments. “Write this style of song, with this tone, for this audience, for this voice.” That made it easier to step back from songwriting and look at it as a craft, not just a vehicle for personal expression. Second – writing a song a week for six weeks did not leave me time to edit lyrics or improve the song structure as much as was needed. So, I was left with six songs that need attention. (Actually just five – I wrote one that I like just the way it is.)
Prepared with a song in just the right state (not too rough, but not a fait accompli) I set off for the SAC regional writers group in Guelph with a few copies of lyrics. The group (facilitated by Peter Light) seemed a good size; large enough for some variety, small enough for every songwriter to be heard. After each song was played we went around the circle and heard feedback from every person. Sometimes listeners contradicted each other with their advice, other times there was agreement about what did or didn’t work in the song.
I liked the feedback I received. Most of the suggestions were great and I could see how even small changes could improve the song. One big surprise: almost every person wanted my poignant little uke song about heartache and loneliness to have a happy ending. There was one other female songwriter in the group – she and I were the only ones who wanted to preserve the longing, unresolved theme. Different target audience? Or did the ukulele bring out the romantic in those men?
I found this to be a great learning experience. To search for a SAC regional writers group in your area visit http://songwriters.ca/regionalgroups.aspx I would suggest it particularly to musicians who tend to write alone. You never know, an exercise like this could be a gateway experience to co-writing!
[SAC Guelph Regional Writers Group, West End Rec Centre in the Parkwood Gardens Community Room, 21 Imperial Road South, Guelph; 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7-9pm]