Open Mike at Graffiti’s

Here’s an entry I wrote about two weeks ago but never got a chance to post. About two weeks ago, Paul and I played the open mike night at Graffiti’s and had a great time. If you’re in the Kensington Market area tonight at around 11-ish, drop by and hear us play the guitar-and-accordion rock that the government doesn’t want you to hear.

I do believe that The Girl will be dropping by, and if I recall correctly, she promised to throw her underwear at me, a la Tom Jones’ fans. Rock!

Immediately after the gathering with Doc Searls, I hopped a cab and made my way to Graffiti’s in Kensington Market. Graffiti’s has an open mike night on Mondays and Thursdays, and its popularity is growing.

Paul and I have been doing the Open Mike circuit more often. We’ve been performing his new songs and they’ve been pretty well received (I’ll have to pen a magnificent rock opus or two myself). He used to hate the chaos that’s sometimes associated with these nights. “Why are these things so random?!” he’d complain, to which I’d reply “because they’re run by neo-hippies.” He’s also now more comfortable in front of a crowd, enjoying the rush that comes with public performance and learning to handle the randomness that plagues events run by indie rock/folkie set.

Graffiti’s has a glass-and-aluminum garage door as their front window. This is quite nice in the summer, as they often roll it up to let some air in. However, in the winter, it’s a poorly-insulated wall that lets in a lot of cold air. Inside, it was cold enough to see your breath. Apparently the heater wasn’t working that night.

We sat near the stage (which also meant we were in the coldest part of the room) and started talking to the people beside us — Derek and Maggie — who’d driven in all the way from Oakville (Oakville is to Toronto as Newark is to New York City. Sort of.). Maggie had never performed in front of an audience before; this was going to be her big debut.

“Don’t worry too much,” said Paul, “never take it seriously.”

“In fact,” I added, “never take anything seriously.”

It was a pretty nice open mike night. There was considerably more variety than what you’d hear at the Free Times Cafe (supposedly the open mike venue here in Accordion City), but it’s always been a bit grating. Too many skinny self-pitying waifs and naifs performing the same damned “nobody loves me” song on their Takamine guitars. Does Takamine have some kind of “unrequited love”, “just got dumped” or “forgot to take my meds” discount? Paul ended up having a conversation with someone who remarked “The Free Times?! That’s just a clique that’s been going on for the past twelve years!”

Early in the evening, one of the performers asked if there was someone in the crowd who was drunk enough to try playing backup piano on a song they’d never heard before.

“I’m not drunk,” I said immediately, “but I’ll do it.”

“Cool,” he said, “and hey, I love your hat.”

I’m going to have to buy another one of these the next time I’m in Vegas.

Sweat-of-the-pants stuff like this keeps me sharp. The song was a simple I-IV-V in the key of G with a very mellow tempo, so it was pretty easy to follow him. By the second cycle of chords, I’d managed to get a lock on its “shape”. By the end, I’d managed to expand the comping and throw in some nice transition chords to boot. I love improvising.

When I returned to my seat after the song, I told Maggie that I like doing that sort of impromptu thing.

“I get a rush from getting thrown into things like that,” I said.

“You didn’t get thrown in, you jumped in.”

“Good point.”

But really, why live on the sidelines when there’s a whole playing field out there?

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