Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Lucky Jack’s Very Cool Open Mic in NYC

August 13, 2011
bradspurgeon

Day 2 in New York City was not only much more reassuring than Day 1, but I also learned something about open mic attendance. I had such an interesting time on the first night – in more ways than one – that on the second night I said to myself, “Well, if you don’t find a place to play, it’s not a tragedy.” I got enough out of the first night to please myself for a bit. But of course I am always aching for more.

The problem was that the only place I could see on the very extraordinary openmike.org web site, was a place called Lucky Jack’s and it looked like the sign-up time was 7 PM and I was finding the place after 7 PM already, and one of the reviews by a former participant was very negative.

So I thought, “Just go out, eat a meal, relax, don’t worrry about doing an open mic tonight.” But as I said, I was itching. So I go and eat on Great Jones Street in some kind of restaurant I stumbled upon that served late, good salad, good pork, nice carafe of wine. I read my newspapers and magazines – the Village Voice, NYT, other things – and then I decide to continue the trip over to Orchard Street.

I find the place, and discover that the open mic is taking place in the basement. Sign up time was 7 PM, I’m there well after 10 PM. As I arrive, however, the MC, Sacha Chavez, is going over his list of participants and saying into the mic the names of person after person, followed by, “Not here…” There was a nice comfortable crowd, however, a bunch of musicians, comedians, and a warm little room with brown brick walls, mirrors, benches, chairs, just a very cool feel to it, with the mic up against the wall and the place reminding me of my ancient memories of the Improv club – in smaller.

So I yell out from my seat, “I AM here but my name is not on the list.”

Sacha responds with some quip and then adds something about joining me for a whiskey, the inference being that maybe I’ve already been drinking several….

In any case, I went up after the next act and added my name to the list and he said, “No problem.”

So what I began to really like about this place was that contrary to the first open mic I went to in NYC, this was an open open mic. And I soon realized that the criticisms of the person on openmike.org were probably based on one bad night there. But that this place really had a cool feel to it, and Sacha was a very different and interesting MC. I loved his preaching about life between acts.

The one thing that was more difficult to take was the mixture of comedians and musicians. This is very good from a spectator’s point of view, as it adds variety. But when you are a musician and you have to get up and perform and sing something woeful and heartfelt and sensitive immediately after a comedian who has blown everyone and everything into smithereens and had you and the whole audience laughing in the aisles, then you have a hard time finding the right emotional note.

This is what happened to me last night. Still, I somehow managed to pull through, and while I played my songs “Borderline” and “Except Her Heart,” Sacha drummed along with me, and the audience clapped and/or grooved along too. So it all worked out for me.

But especially interesting and cool were some of the acts, like the luscious Eve Blackwater, with her wonderfully emotional and strong voice, or the luscious Laura Summerhill, with her coolly camp and retro song and dance number. Or the luscious… well, there were a few others, and there were some surprisingly good comedians. All in all, a great surprise. Very hip, cool, but above all OPEN open mic. Oh, and not a soul said anything about me sitting there doing videos the whole time. Why should they?!?!?

Lucky Jack’s open mic, in any case, is to be recommended. And so is going despite it being late, having bad reviews, and you just think it would be more comfortable to do something else – it won’t.

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