I was walking up the street the other day, towards the Salvation Army. I was going there to ask them for assistance in renewing my ID. There I was basically told that I had all the ingredients, minus the $23, which the state of Alabama would want.
As I passed a hefty black man, who was mowing a lawn, he turned the mower off and asked me "Can you play that thing?"
I told him that sometimes I think I can play that thing, but other times, like after hearing a jazz guitarist, I wonder.
He told me that I ought to go to The Garage, on Washington street, and, if there were certain vehicles in front, that would mean that the owners were there. He said that if I spoke to them, they might let me play in the club. He added that they had their own sound system to plug into.
Last night, they had open mic night and I went in at about 9:30pm. They were just getting started. I was greeted by a man whom I recognized from the street. He was another who had asked me if I could play the thing. He was the MC of the event, and the "headlining" act, along with a female, who played the mandolin. He told me that I could go on "second set."
I listened to their performance, which was pretty polished, though not exactly to my musical tastes. I guess mandolin flavored music is an acquired taste. Then another couple went up and played. What I noticed most was that their guitars were expensive and sounded great. I began to adjust my strategy to factor in the fact that my 90 dollar Johnson guitar was going to produce a drop off in overall sound quality when I started to play. I decided to go the comedy route and play my funny originals. I thought that I needed a bridge for "The Carcass Song," which I wrote back in 1996, when I lived in Middleburg, Florida. The song is about a time when the dogs came into the house smelling of a carcass. I went outside in the relative quiet and added a bridge about a daughter's disappearance, which shifted the song from a wacky farce about the dogs getting into a carcass, into the macabre .
The bartender, who looked like Miley Cyrus, gave me a free beer, as I waited to go on. I think that the guy who greeted me had broken the ice a bit by telling those whom it might concern that I was a street musician, and probably penniless. He might have told the bartender that I was a good musician; the beer may have been a good faith offering.
I got up and played. I did "I'm In Love With A Skinny Girl From St. Augustine," which received applause. I then did "The Carcass Song," with the new bridge added. The place fell silent when the verse "The detectives said that with each passing day, the odds of finding the girl alive diminish,' came around, putting the song into a new perspective. Then, one last chorus of "I hate it when the dogs get into a carcass," sealed the deal and put me on the map as a new musician in town. I think I had every one's attention - a tribute to the fine sound engineering by the guy who greeted me (he had worked in a studio and mixed the vocals intelligibly.)
Then, I figured it was time for some "favorites." I did a couple of verses of "Chinacat Sunflower," by the Grateful Dead, but quickly shifted to "Like a Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan. Then "Mrs. Robinson," by Simon and Garfunkle, then "Norwegian Wood," by The Beatles. I think that was it. I'm not drinking like I used to with Karrie, but, playing music makes me shut off my memory..probably so mistakes won't pause me.
After I finished, the guy who had greeted me came over and told me it was "great," and that I sounded good and paced the songs well. He said he was "cracking up" over The Carcass Song, and that he really appreciated the morbid part "I don't know if everyone did, but don't sweat it," he added. He then gave me 5 dollars, saying that he knew that it was rough "out there."
I took my 5 dollars to the bar and told the bartender who looked like Miley Cyrus that I could "stand" another beer. She gave me one and then refused to take my money. It was a good outing and I was glad that I had played The Garage. I may have only made the 5 bucks on the street, or even less, the way things are "out there." Now I have inspiration and have already begun composing stuff for next week, based upon what worked best. On the way out, I put the dollar which I walked in with into the jukebox and played a song by Yes, called "Saving My Heart," from one of their obscure albums.