Friday, April 12, 2013

Meister Maestro

The video above is my performance of "The Door" at Starbucks in El Cajon this past Saturday, with Dave Farrell on drums and John Rodriguez (out of frame to the left) on bass.  Thanks so much to Teri Hoffman of the Open Mic Rancho San Diego for filming this, uploading it and posting it to her YouTube Channel (

Last night I ventured up to Santee, in the eastern-central part of San Diego County, to play the open mic night at Kaffee Meister, a great little coffee shop.  About three weeks ago at the Open Mic Rancho San Diego, musician Cliff Niman told me about this one and encouraged me to play it.  I had it on my calendar for two weeks, but was just too busy and exhausted after the Lestat's West on Monday/Rebecca's on Tuesday/710 Beach Club on Wednesday run of open mics (which I am still doing).  Then last Saturday at Starbucks, Cliff mentioned it to me again, and Tim Woods also pitched it to me.  Tim is another musician who plays the Open Mic Rancho San Diego regularly, is the proprietor of Kaffee Meister in Santee, and runs the open mic there.

So this Thursday night, I finally made it up there.  It's a fantastic little place, and another completely different environment from all the other open mics I've played in San Diego.  It's a much smaller room than Rebecca's, with tables and chairs fairly close together.  The place was absolutely packed with people.  When I first got there, there was not a free chair for me to sit on.  And almost everyone was there for the open mic.

I wrote my name on a slip of white paper and put it in the big blue plastic jar - the ol' draw-the-names method of assigning time slots for the night.  Similar to how they do it at Lestat's West, but much more laid back, as there weren't as many musicians.  I originally got the 9:15PM slot, but Cliff asked to switch with me - he had drawn the 7:30 slot.  He said he wanted to play near the end of the night, when everyone was tired and falling asleep.  I chuckled at this and said okay.

When 7:30 rolled around, I got up and took my spot.  I started with the not-even-one-week-old song, "First Step to Starlight," then went into "Home of Love."  I played "When I Fall" third - I played that one on my LIVE from The Basement online show last year, but this was only the second time I've played it for a live, in-person audience.  The same acoustic version of this song appears on both my all-acoustic EP The Darkness and The Light, and is also the only all-acoustic track on my full album Just Keep Goin'.  Then I finished up with "Picture of Your Touch."  

It was a really interesting set, first because I got to play more than three songs for an in-person audience the first time in a year.  Sometimes lately, I feel like I'm just getting into the groove on stage, and then my second or third song is finished, and it's time to get off.  It was nice instead to have some time with the audience, which stayed packed the whole night.

It was also a great experience for me because of the way the sound system was set up, and the overall vibe and atmosphere created by the other performers.  The sound system last night was fairly loud volume-wise, and the chairs for the audience closest to my microphone were only a few feet away.  So any loud vocals or guitar would have been like smacking the first few rows of audience members in the face.  Hard.

The atmosphere was one for pretty, light tunes. Most performers played folk songs, older country songs, or even older tunes from bluegrass or ragtime.

All that led me to pick some of my most mellow, slow, and pretty songs to play.  It also got me to really focus in on using my voice and singing the lyrics, rather than using the guitar or loud vocals to get my musical point across.  I sang the same vocal melodies as always, but just backed off on the power...most notably in the choruses of "First Step to Starlight," the sped-up bridge and ending of "Home of Love," and the last verse and chorus of "When I Fall."  It was a challenge for me, but I really enjoyed it.

Several people came up to me afterward and complimented me on my singing voice, which...has been a pretty rare thing for me.  Back in my old scream-ey, punk rock days in Victor Bravo, people would occasionally say they "really liked" my vocals, but I don't remember anyone saying they thought I "sang well."  Makes sense, as I was yelling a lot.

I stayed the whole night, and had a wonderful time watching my fellow performers and talking to people.  Musician Bob Cool cracked me up...he came over after my set, and asked me if I had stuck chewing gum to the bottom of my black Fender Strat guitar to make some sort of statement.  I explained that it wasn't gum, it was where the black exterior paint has been sliced away to expose the bare wood underneath...I claimed I had "dropped it a couple of times."  I wasn't sure he would understand if I gave him the whole story...that I didn't "drop it," I HURLED it from the stage like a javelin at the end of several blazing Victor Bravo sets in places like Chicago, Minneapolis and Brooklyn.
L to R: John Seever on harmonica, Barb on vocals and Cliff
Niman on guitar perform a stunning rendition of "Summertime"

There were lots of great performers last night, but one song in particular just blew my mind.  John Seever played harmonica, Cliff Niman played guitar, and Barb (apologies - I didn't get her last name) sang an absolutely amazing version of "Summertime."  John's performance on the harmonica was the most incredible I've ever seen - and I've seen quite a few harp players.  Barb poured so much heart and soul into the vocals...I was completely transfixed from first note to last.

I sent in my e-mail request too late to get a time slot I could actually make, at the Open Mic Rancho San Diego this Saturday, which is again at Starbucks in El Cajon.  I may go anyway, just to watch and support the other performers, and see if they can sneak me in for a song or two somewhere.  I'll most likely be going to the drawing at Lestat's West Monday night to see if I can play there, and 710 Beach Club on Wednesday night.  The Tuesday night open mic at Rebecca's is off this week.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog here and reading.  I really appreciate it!

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  1. very well put together ~the other Saint

  2. thank you, Sir! Appreciate you reading my words here. :)