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Second Night in Shanghai: Another Two Open Mics

April 15, 2011

This roll just keeps going on. My second night in Shanghai and I got to do two more open mics. One of these was very different than anything I’ve done before, and it was thanks to a discovery by Frida Andersson, also known as Sister Fay.

The first was run by a guy from Quebec who calls himself Max Wengel and who is a sound engineer living in Shanghai. This is a songwriter’s open mic called, “Your Songs, Your Show,” and it happens around every two weeks. The principle is that you book a slot in advance and you play for between 20 minutes and half an hour, depending on the number of performers, and you only sing your own songs, no cover songs.

I was slightly reticent about that format because I like to throw in cover songs to give a shift in speed and tone, etc., sprinkling my own songs with covers. And so I had a hard time as I awaited my turn trying to figure out what songs to do and in what order. One of the performers who played before me, however, did a whole set linked to the story of an imaginary “Dave,” and American living in Shanghai – loosely based on himself. This was Tom Mangione, who calls himself, “Ho-Tom the Conqueror,” and his band, “The Horde.” That gave me the idea of simply playing my own songs in the order I wrote them over the last two years. I narrated a little of their genesis as I went along. It turned out to be good fun for me, and judging by the audience reaction, for them too.

The aforesaid Ho-Tom had in the band, The Horde, a mandolin player and a harmonica player, and they played some very good and together music. It turned out that he had seen me playing at Oscar’s pub last year in Shanghai and I remembered having seen him too. It grows, this voyage.

Also up was Sister Fay, Frida, as I mentioned above and in yesterday’s post. And her songs came out all the stronger in this format too – even though they are strong enough to begin with.

There was a woman from Virginia, Nancy, who played keyboards and sang a couple of her beautiful songs in a great strong voice that had a country pop sound to it. One of the songs was half written by her grandmother in 1937, and the part that was lost had been written by her. Very touching.

The open mic was located in a very down-at-the-heals shopping mall called Fanfare in a music studio, and it felt very strange to walk the halls after hours like that. A very, very authentic off-the-beaten path experience – but with little Chinese content in terms of music or spectators, although there were two or three Chinese spectators.

After that Frida and I – and her mother – went off to Bee Dees, where I had performed last year. The advantage to Bee Dees is that it will go on very late. So we got there around midnight and played for another hour before another group of musicians took to the stage. When we arrived Jeff, the owner of the club, was playing bass with a drummer and a couple of guitarists. Although there is a lot of rock music at this place, which is a cross between a jam bar and an open mic, all kinds of music are accepted and encouraged.

It was a little slow when we arrived, but then it picked up and turned out to be a fine evening. If I sang only my own songs at the first place, I decided to sing only cover songs at Bee Dees. That was fun too. And Frida did a number of cover songs herself, including two Joni Mitchell songs. That was a treat.

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