When last we saw our plucky heroes, they were preparing to descend upon a new venue for an open mic night. SoZo Coffee hosts these shindigs twice monthly. Open mic nights are a chance for musicians to strut their stuff, to try out material in front of a live audience, or just get a taste of their rock & roll dream. No one is getting paid, and the sets are limited in duration (10 minutes, in this case.) Venue owners will sometimes use them as a means of checking out new talent. Brian’s been scouting a few of these throughout the Valley, mostly on weeknights. We heard about this one, held on a Saturday evening, and decided to take a swing at it, sight unseen.
We talked for over an hour, picking out a set. This is different from our usual process, where we just sort of feel out the music, building sets based on key and emotional feel. For this gig, we needed a little more thought behind our choices. We decided on 3 pieces, trying to showcase as much of our sound as possible. We needed pieces that were high-energy, pieces that would give each of us a chance to shine, pieces that flowed together well musically…and all in 10 minutes or less. We pondered and debated, hit “shuffle” several times on our whole catalog, and finally arrived at a cohesive set that initially timed in at 11:15. Close enough, for a start.
We played it again. Filed off a couple of rough spots. We played it again. Nitpicked little touches. We played it again. And again. And again. We polished that set within an inch of its life. We’d occasionally switch to something else for a few minutes, just to cleanse our musical palates. And then back to the set. We shaved a minute off our time, too. 10:15 was certainly close enough. We wrapped practice and got ready for the show.
We sent Brian ahead to get us signed up. He and his lovely bride arrived at the venue about 45 minutes before the signup sheet would be available. They checked out the stage and reported back to the rest of the band; how big a space would we have, how many inputs available, where was the sound board located, how big was the room? People started arriving with instrument cases. By the time the owner arrived for signup, there were 20+ people waiting in line. Brian got us signed up for an 8PM slot, enough time for the rest of us to arrive, tune, get a feel for the room, and maybe a little warmup. (Good job, mate! You get a cookie!)
That’s a lot of work for a 10 minute set, isn’t it? We’ve been doing this for a while, after all. We should be able to just show up, plug in, do our thing, and be done, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that we’re pretty comfortable making music together, and we have a decent amount of material in our back pockets, stuff that we can trot out at a moment’s notice. No, in that this performance was a big deal for us; like we said last time, this was playing for a new audience. Playing for people who don’t already love us. And as it turned out, playing for a room full of musicians, our peers. We needed a win here.
There was a lot of talent in that room. It seemed pretty full when the show started. By 7:30, extra chairs were being pulled out and filled. By 7:50, there was barely any clear path to the stage. By 7:55, we discovered that butterflies can be carnivorous. And then, it was time.
We took the stage, plugged everything in, checked the sound, and were ready to play in under a minute. And play we did. By the end of the first verse, phones and tablets were set aside. By the end of the first song, EVERYone sat up and noticed. “I See Fire” thundered into “Hail”, which danced its way into “Catharsis”. We started playing, and didn’t stop until the set was done. 9:45. And they cheered, and applauded, these people who had never heard us before, these strangers, these colleagues of ours.
Achievement Unlocked: Blew The Doors Off a New Venue!
And yes, we’re going back. Friday, June 26. See you there?
( By the way we’re playing with Periscope, looking at broadcasting some of our shows that way. What do you guys think of that? )