A few months ago the Highlander shifted its 5-year-old open mic from the ground floor to the basement. I thought it was a bad move as I thought there was something warmer about the ground floor, but after the open mic had to return to the ground floor just for one night last night to make way for the Robert Burns celebration in the basement, I have revised my opinion.
The ground floor is too packed, too suffocating, not as good acoustically and more difficult to order from the bar! There’s also a way for most of the chattering classes to move into the back of the basement room, where as on the ground floor they are mostly much closer to the performance area.
Having said that, when an exceptional performer gets up and sings the right thing, the chattering cuts out a lot, or at least gets replaced with a sense of community, warmth, great vibe and fun. That happened last night occasionally, especially early in the evening when, sorry to repeat this name once again, Conn Bux took to the mic.
Conn is the Irish musician I keep talking about. But last night was a particularly poignant moment because he announced with his second song that he wanted to dedicate it to an old friend of his, a woman named Emma, who died of breast cancer last weekend at the age of 35. It was wrenchingly emotional, in fact. And it did not stop with the dedicated song, it continued when Conn went on to continue with his next song called “Last Time,” about seeing someone for the last time. Afterwards he told me the first song was a favorite of Emma, and that he had sung Last Time with her in his mind too. Of course.
I enjoyed my own moment as a lot of the audience members sang along with me on three of the cover songs I chose do, “What’s Up!,” “Father and Son,” and “Just Like a Woman.” Of course, I chose them with that hope in mind, thinking the audience needing some drawing together and personal interactivity at that point – which was well past midnight. Still, I was so delighted with the singing along on the Dylan song that they actually threw me off a couple of times as I kind of waited to hear THEM sing the lines instead of me…. A huge, greatly needed, pleasure.