Singing truth to power
Peace Poetry & Music
“It’s like a cross between a coffee shop and someone’s living room,” says Lee Dazey of the Peace Poetry & Music night at Dreamer’s Coffeehouse & Deli.
It’s a point she and her two co-founders/co-hosts, Kim Elise and Chris Good, come back to often—above all, the twice-monthly event is welcoming, comfortable and hopefully entertaining.
“We want to enlighten, entertain, connect with you, invite you to be comfortable and enjoy yourself, and maybe feel something, maybe change your thoughts a little bit,” Elise says.
Though in format it’s a standard open-mic night—performers sign in at the beginning of the night and are each given up to 10 minutes on stage—the event was established two years ago out of a desire to “urge artists in the community to take more of a political stand,” says Dazey.
“When we got going, we were leading up to the war in Iraq,” says Good, “so in part, it’s reaction to that.” A reaction to, as he puts it, “the militarization of our culture.”
“All of us [Dazey, Elise and Good] are very tied into the peace movement. So that’s sort of a seed for the flowering that’s going on here,” says Dazey.
However, the political leanings of the three hosts shouldn’t put off potential attendees or performers who have different viewpoints. The actual political content of the show on Sept. 16 was slight, roughly consisting of two sets of fliers placed next to the performer sign-up sheet, a handful of songs with political subject matter and occasional quips about President Bush.
“We’ve had some really radical folks,” says Elise. “Both political and non-political. And real opposing views. It’s been really stimulating for most of the people in here.”
Dazey adds that there have also been performers who have felt “comfortable sharing their stuff which is maybe a bit more neutral politically and more mainstream. … Anybody feels welcome.”
As is always a danger with open-mics, the appealing, democratic idea—anyone can perform—can easily lead to the unappealing fact of really shoddy performances (because, well … anyone can perform). That said, the performances on Sept. 16 were nearly all better than mediocre and included some genuine bright spots, such as Mississippi Mitch, who offered three economical and well-written country songs which he sang with a voice as gritty and ravaged as Merle Haggard’s. (Which apparently is not ravaged enough—he explained that he had only smoked three packs of cigarettes that day.)
Besides the crowd of singer/songwriters and authors of sentimental and/or humorous prose poetry who usually haunt open-mics, a wide variety of artists have performed at the Peace Poetry & Music night since its inception.
Performances have ranged from “skits to magicians to poetry to music,” says Elise.
“We had a spate of rappers for a little while,” adds Good.
The event, by providing a regular audience and a semi-regular community of fellow artists, has allowed the hosts to focus their work and avoid the feeling that they are working in a vacuum.
“It helps us to pour our hearts and our thoughts into something tangible because we know there’s an event to go to,” says Dazey.
And, more practically, that Dreamer’s has bravely provided a home for the event has clear benefits for the hosts as well.
“Then we don’t have to have it in our living rooms and clean up afterwards,” says Dazey.