It makes you scared,
It makes you numb,
But it’s the price you pay
If you want to become
The Star of Your Dreams.
– From Open Mic Night at The Rubber Soul
If there really is such thing as a mid-life crisis, I experienced one along about 15 years ago.
It was the dawn of a new century and I’d just turned 50. I’d been in the same profession doing pretty much the same thing for 30 years. Our kids, Nate and Rebecca, were old enough to get in and out of the bathtub by themselves. And, considering their mother, Tybee, is a teacher and way smarter than their dad, they rarely came to me for help with homework anyway.
So around the house, I was starting to feel, shall we say, superfluous. I needed some juice in my life. I was bored and getting more so every day.
But fear not. I didn’t go out and buy a fancy red sports car to tool around town with the ragtop down. And if you’ve seen me anytime since, you’ll know I didn’t start wearing some stupid rug on my head.
What I did, instead, was to toss Buckshot, my 1967 Gibson J-45, in the car and scoured around town to find an Open Mic scene where I could play the songs I had been writing since I first learned to play at age 15 or 16.
And sure enough, down on Burke Street near the intersection with First Street – at the top of the hill – I stumbled into a bar called the Rubber Soul, which featured a thriving Open Mic Night on Wednesdays. And I give thanks to this day that Kent Dunn, the wide-open owner of the establishment, and Neal B. Goode, who ram-rodded the Open Mic and operated the sound board, never ran me off.
I kept coming, week after week, until sadly, the Rubber Soul closed its doors sometime around 2006. The scene died, but thankfully the three patrons shot in there on that tragic Monday night all survived.
But the hook was in pretty deep by then, so I talked the owners of the Garage – two good friends and even better folks, Richard Emmett and Kim Lawson – into letting me run an Open Mic at their bar on Seventh Street downtown. We had a really good thing going there for 4 ½ years, a show on that wonderful big stage that started at 8 and ran until 12.
We kept tweaking the format until, in the later years, we offered 15-minute sets for singer-songwriters the first couple of hours leading into two 45-minute sets for bands from 10:30 to midnight.
I’ve been told by folks who might know this kind of thing that 4 ½ years is an eternity for any Open Mic scene. I do know we had us quite a time until our show finally ran its course and ended. We always had plenty of performers to fill the bill, but when the number of folks there to listen and buy adult beverages slowed to a trickle, Richard and Kim weren’t making enough to keep it going.
By then, I was pretty much done with hanging around until the last note died at midnight. So I was cool, and then some, with how it all went down.
But I was still writing songs, and I still needed a place to play them. You see, playing a new song live is, at least for me, essential to the process. I don’t even feel I’ve written a song until I’ve show-tested it, to to speak, in front of live human beings other than my bride Tybee.
I kept hunting around town for another happening Open Mic scene, but could never find one to suit my purposes. I fell into a couple of scenes where there were Open Jams, but if you’re a songwriter, nobody you’re playing with at these shows is going to know your songs.
It just didn’t work.
And perhaps you’ve heard the saying about how if you want to do something right. . .
So finally, early in 2014, I wrote out a proposal introducing myself and explaining what I had done at the Garage and what I was willing to do elsewhere, and dropped it off at every bar, club and venue in town that featured live music. And for months, I heard absolutely nothing.
Then in the late spring of 2014 I got a call from a guy named Bill Heath, who was interested in maybe getting an Open Mic going at Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. Right away I was interested, especially considering the Cafe is about five minutes from our hacienda.
We launched in June of 2014 and have been going great guns ever since. Befitting my age, it’s an earlier scene. We start at 6:30 and wrap the night up by 10, if not sooner.
Over all these experiences I’ve become more and more devoted to the concept of Open Mic.
On its worst nights, its time well-worth spending.
On its best nights replete with amazing music and even better communal fellowship and fun, it can be downright holy.
And at Muddy Creek Cafe we take great, great pains to ensure that our Open Mic is totally open. Being a musician myself, I recognize how harrowing getting up on stage to play for people can be – especially when you’re laying your soul bare by performing songs you, yourself, wrote.
So our motto is that You’re Among Friends at Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe. And we always welcome newbies with open arms.
What I’ve found is that relying on the same core of two or three dozen people will carry you only so far. Eventually life catches up and the numbers start to dwindle.
I attribute our longevity to being able to expand the circle with newbies every week. Besides, the larger the circle, the more fun for everybody. And we happily include all people of all ages, genders, races, attitudes and tastes.
Why not? Good music is good music, good people are good people and good times are good times.
Every week I leave my house before six knowing I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Every week is different but every week has been a blast.
I wake up every Thursday morning with a smile on my face, knowing there will be an Open Mic that night. And I’ll have the same smile on my face when I leave the house tonight for the show.
So if you’re a musician looking for a place to play, or if you’re just a music lover looking for a happening scene, we’d love to have you drop by. For those wanting to perform, just know that at 6:15 we draw numbers to determine when everybody plays.
The real fur begins to fly with the first chord at 6:30.
We’re having too much fun to miss. Hope to see you there.