It was a dark and stormy night. . . no really, it was! There was thunder & lightning and driving rain as I made my way to Fionn MacCool’s to check out the open mic hosted by Robbie Hancock. I find the bar atmosphere does not always lend itself to the acoustic singer-songwriter style – loud conversations, sketchy acoustics and TVs to contend with. To his credit, Robbie does a nice job on the sound so there is no need to strain your voice to be heard (or to hear yourself) above the ambiant sound of the pub. The venue also has some “staff choice” prizes to bestow upon their favourite open mic performers. From what I’ve been able to catch (in person and on-line) there is a lot of talent showcased here.
An added benefit for the slightly stage-wary types like myself is how Robbie has positioned the lights. Once I stepped in front of the mic I couldn’t see anyone in the audience – whether they were listening appreciatively or watching the game on TV or rolling their eyes – couldn’t see a thing! This worked quite well for me.
Robbie has extended the potential listening audience by live streaming the open mic (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/robbie-s-open-mic). This way you can tune in even if you can’t be there in person or you can let your long distance or housebound friends know when you’ll be playing.
[Fionn MacCool’s 4287 King St E, Kitchener, every Sunday 7-10 pm, no cover]
“We’re here to facilitate creativity and community” is how our host, Lisa, introduces the evening. This is a homey, welcoming environment with a small but very attentive and supportive audience – a great place to bring your performing self out of the closet or try out new material. Down the hall from the music room is a workshop with art supplies that people are welcome to experiment with – all part of the RAW Creativity Network.
The RAW Creativity Network was launched in 2001 by Lisa Golem as part of her work as a counsellor using music and art therapy. Lisa resigned as a counsellor last year to turn her full-time attention to painting, writing, performing and creativity coaching. Lisa (and husband Don) have turned their home into a hub of for artists of all kinds to come together to collaborate, support and inspire each other.
photo credit: Carolyn Dawn Good
The RAW Beats n’ Jam intimate coffee house has existed in its current format for a couple of years. The evening usually starts with a couple of feature performers followed by an open mic. Check the Events section of the website for upcoming dates.
I admire creative use of everyday public space. On May 31st, Kitchener Civic Square was transformed into a percussion playground by Between the Ears Festival. The festival began with strains of operatic voices cascading from unseen singers high above the square. This was followed by a surround sound crescendo of gongs that began softly and grew loud enough to drown out the sound of the city.
In Spill, sound was produced by a giant funnel swinging pendulum style spilling rice over a variety of ever changing textures. I was torn between closing my eyes and listening to the rhythm and watching the hypnotic movement of the funnel and Ryan Scott’s manipulation of the objects below.
Another intriguing combination of visuals and sounds: six percussionists performed a piece where the rhythms bounced back and forth and wove in and out of each other. Meanwhile, the drumsticks were attached to a centre pole by long white strands that leapt and curled with the rhythm. It was amazing to watch from any angle.
Disonar featured a performance on a drum kit made of drywall and a guitar made of cement – spoiler alert: it does not end well for the drum kit.
The last performance – “Hit Parade” – consisted of participants who lay on the floor with microphones and beat the microphones on the floor at whatever tempo they chose, “resting” after 100 beats and then resuming. This was the hardest performance for me to connect to – couldn’t find anything aesthetically or intellectually compelling about it.
It is the time of year when we dust off our favourite Christmas themed songs, the ones we don’t sing the other 11 months of the year, and let them loose in public. Christmas carols have a way of creating impromptu ensembles out of neighbours and choristers out of usually reluctant singers.
If you are anywhere near Guelph, Hamilton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Toronto or Ottawa, here are some ideas of where to go to share in some seasonal and participatory music:
Sing along with Sam & Jane
Friday, December 14. 8-10 pm. *Holiday edition*
Magnolia Café 88 Yarmouth Street, Guelph
Reservations recommended, but not required: 519.766.4663
The usual singalong, plus a few holiday songs & carols!
Mill Race Folk Society presents Pub Carols with the Orange Peel Carollers.
“These carols are not the standard Christmas stock we hear piped into every mall; they are often more boisterous and secular in nature than the familiar fare. . .
If you would like to hear more, or better yet come out and sing along with the group, they invite you to join them at the Kiwi on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 3 P.m. to 6 P.M. Admission if Free, but donations for the carollers are welcome.”
This new open mic has been running about 2 months now, every Wednesday evening in the lobby of the Chrysalids Theatre. Host Christen Zuch starts the night off with a few tunes. This particular evening was quiet, only about a dozen people there, but most nights attract a larger crowd. Every other week there is a house band that kicks off the evening and can offer support (bass, drums, guitar) to open mic performers.
One highlight was listening to Brendan Stephens & Chelsea Lights who played resonator guitar, kazoo and washboard; 18 year old Brendan is on his way to Memphis in January for the International Blues Competition.
[Open Mic at the L Lounge, 137 Ontario St N, Kitchener; every Wednesday 9 – 11:30 pm; no cover]