Phoning it in
A connoisseur of local open-mic nights might tell you the greatest moment on one of those free-access stages was when Jackie Greene showed up at the Fox & Goose one night, causing then-host Billy Harper and singer Sal Valentino to bliss out during his short set. Yeah, I’d heard that was a great moment, and it achieved a quasi-legendary status around town.
For my money, it was one night at the old Café Montreal (in the building now occupied by the Golden Bear) back in the early 1990s, when a generally toasted guy named Duke-o—a regular at that open mic who looked kinda like Sammy Hagar and bellowed like him, too—got busted by Regional Transit cops for jumping on a light-rail car without paying. Not one to miss an open mic, Duke-o called the café from jail and Dusty Hamilton, the club owner, held the phone up to the microphone, so Duke-o could bark some poodlehead-metal gibberish about mixed vegetables over the phone lines from the juzgado and keep his unbroken streak of appearances going. It was classic.
Open mics often can be a tug of war between the freak-show elements and the more serious singer-songwriter types who only want to sharpen their chops and try out new material. But perhaps looking at these nights that way may be a bit too Manichaean. Usually they feature a mix of the two polarities, but there are other dimensions at play, too.
There are a few choice open mics around town, one of them being Tuesday nights at the True Love Coffeehouse, hosted by Matt “The Bastard” Woodcheke. The open mic’s two strict requirements are “original material” and “no drums” (which tends to weed out hippie drum-circle hog jams).
On Friday, September 28, Woodcheke will don an impresario hat to showcase four young acts from the open mic, his favorite new and original talent from various Tuesday nights. One vocalist, Autumn Sky, might be pigeonholed at first as a barista’s pick to click, with the characteristic waif-like voice that yodels heavenward over finger-picked guitar. But she does write some winning songs (www.myspace.com/mermaidmmk). Another, Jimmy Mazerik, is low-key in a Jack Johnson way, singing in a late-night tobacco-patina voice over strummed guitar (www.myspace.com/jimmymazerik).
The evening will also feature two singers from the E.E. Cummings division: Lukebible (www.myspace.com/oxlukebible), sings her Spartan folk songs over a strummed acoustic with the kind of vocal lines that fade into fuzzy diction toward the end, a nod toward Appalachian authenticity that might drive college professors wild. And then there’s Johnnymitro (www.myspace.com/johnnymitro), a tremendously foppish singer from Tracy, the kind of lad who could make aging English record producers of a certain glam sensibility get seriously tumescent; he accompanies himself on a big hollow-body Gretsch. Woodcheke is convinced this guy will be bigger than Chris Crocker doing a David Bowie impersonation on some sketchy new MTV “reality” show. I’m not so sure, but he’s definitely got something.
The show’s start time is 8 p.m., but it’ll probably commence around 8:30, and it’s an all-ages show that’s free. How can you top that?