Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Coolin Victim of its Success, Galway Great Relief

June 26, 2012

I occasionally write rotten, nasty, unfriendly things about open mics that a) I usually love, and b) I’ve written huge praise about before. I hate doing that, but if I kept the criticism to myself all the time and only ever said nice things about the places I go play music at, then who could trust that they would find anything like the truth on this blog? Who could respect me and think that there’s a real story being told here? And the friends who saw me angry about Coolin’ pub last night, if I said nice things about it – wouldn’t they find the real person and the public writer a bit of a hypocritical contrast?

So unfortunately, I had a rotten time at Coolin last for practically the first time ever and I feel completely obliged to say it. I will nevertheless temper the criticism with the statement that part of the problem was that I had to go off to the Galway afterward and so could not stay to the end of the Coolin evening to see how it all panned out, or even to play my own set. But the problem, at base, was this: Coolin has become such a fabulous success and draw to musicians as an open mic that last night there were 30 musicians signed up to play!

The organizers being so kind that they want to give everyone a chance to play, actually made a bit of a mess of it, as names on the list ended up not being on a first-come, first-serve basis, and some performers were surprised to see their slots not ending up where they had expected, and having to wait a lot longer than expected. One guy, in fact, discovered that his slot on the list had been taken by another guy who said he had the same name!!!! Had I not intervened on that one, the guy – whom I know – would perhaps not have played, or played last.

In short, it was total chaos AND the crowd was one of the loudest, least interested that I have seen. Having said that, the organizers made a big effort to get everyone up, and I’m pretty sure they must have, since the open mic went on until close to 2 AM. And photos I have seen show that it may indeed have turned into a great evening with warm audience connection and participation by the end. But I was embarrassed that my friends who came on my advice, ended up being thrown around on the list, at what appeared to be the convenience of other more important friends.

Hey, that’s all really petty, though, isn’t it? And actually, the only thing it really says is that for the first time Coolin, because of all of its success, had 30 people on the list and did not know how to deal with the influx – which is normal. I suppose all successful open mics have to pass through that situation at some point, and find ways to tell performers they will NOT be able to play.

In any case, I left at about 12:15, went to the Galway, and I was asked immediately if I wanted to play – as there were no more performers on the list, since they were at Coolin! – and I accepted happily (as I had told Coolin I would not play there) and then discovered two friends were there whom I had not expected. This was Joe Cady and Rony Boy, a fiddler and a guitarist from a band called The Romantic Black Shirts. I asked if they would play along with me, and they agreed happily. I had played with Rony Boy last week, and I have played with Joe many times. But we had never played all together.

So my Galway experience ended up being a fabulous dream compared to Coolin! I was so happy to play with those guys that I decided to place my Zoom Q3HD recorder behind us to record it, even though I was pretty sure the framing of the image would be crap. So I have placed three of those songs up on the site, but remember, I knew the image would be crap, and the sound comes from the monitor for the musicians, not from the speakers in the pub.

Oh, and by the way, I will not be returning to Coolin next week – but not because I’m pissed off. It’s because I will be hosting the Galway Pub open mic myself as the guest MC as the regular MC, All the Roads, is taking the day off. So all that ends well ends well… or whatever…. Of course, after this post, maybe Coolin would not even let me in again next week!!! But I have to be honest. I do repeat, however, that I might have perceived the Coolin evening different if I had stayed to the end – and my perceptions will not reflect those of all participants last night, I’m sure….

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