December 28, 2016
It was another big month for me music-wise, but ironically there were only three "open mic" nights at Queen City Brewing. (The scheduled December 7 event was cancelled due to a furnace breakdown.) The really big event for me, however, was on December 12.
You might say that Santa Claus came early this year for me. In preparation for performing at the Augusta Bird Club 50th anniversary dinner (see below), I made a long-deferred purchase of a public address amplifier system. Ironically, I had bought a microphone and stand in the late 1980s when I was getting semi-serious about music, but never had an amp. Not satisfied with the choices available locally, I went up to Hometown Music in Harrisonburg [see website], and bought a Fender Passport Conference P.A. system. ("Conference" is the low end of that product line; there are two more expensive models.) It has two speakers that conveniently fit with the central amplifier unit, and looks like a suitcase. It's heavy but definitely portable. With 175 watts of output power, it seems ideal for my purposes, enabling me to play in a small venue either solo or with another musician.
On December 12, 2016 I provided musical entertainment at the Augusta Bird Club's 50th anniversary dinner, at which about 50 people attended, including the mayor of Staunton, Carolyn Dull. I played five songs (or parts thereof), four of which are marked with asterisks in the open mic list for December 14, when I played them again (in full). On the first song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," I changed "West Virginia" to "Augusta County," and "Shenandoah River" to "Shenandoah Valley." (I introduced that song by saying it was by a guy named Henry Deutschendorf, asking if anyone knew what his common name was. I was very impressed that Mayor Carolyn Dull was the first to give the correct answer: John Denver!) The next four songs were all abbreviated, comprising what I called a "Bird Song Medley," in which each song title was changed to that of a bird species, along with a few altered lyrics where appropriate. It was an attempt at "insider" humor on my part, and most people seemed to get the joke.
I played four of those five songs on [the Staunton Music Guild's] open mic night two days later, the exception being "Mississippi Queen" by the group Mountain. (It's hard rock, not well suited for acoustic guitar.) Not many people were there that evening, so I figured I could take a bit more risk than usual, and played The Beatles' "And I Love Her." It involves some quick chord changes, and I pulled it off pretty well. Then on the next song, I totally blew the intro bass lines of "One of These Nights," and even had to start over, but the rest of the song went OK. The final two songs were tributes to rock musicians who died this year: Glenn Frey in January and both Keith Emerson (March) and Greg Lake (December 7). I was very pleased by how ELP's "From the Beginning" sounded.
On December 21, there was a pretty good turnout (about 15-20 people) but only two musicians besides Fritz Horisk (the open mic host): Diane Bryer and me. As a result, each of us got to do several extra songs, eight altogether. Since Fritz had been playing Christmas songs since the week before, I figured I ought to get into the spirit of the season, so I learned the Eagles' Yuletide classic song "Please Come Home For Christmas." Despite being a new song for me, it went pretty well. I thought I did very well on "Sweet Caroline," but didn't seem to get much audience reaction. As in the week before, some of the songs were tributes to rock musicians who passed away this year. I used the harmonica in place of the lead guitar on "Peaceful Easy Feeling," and that went very well. David Bowie's "Space Oddity" also sounded good.
Tonight, December 28, the crowd was rather thin, no more than ten or so. Besides me (and the host, Fritz), there were two other musicians, one of whom (Perry) has played there quite a few times and has a repertoire that is somewhat similar to mine. I started with a country music classic ("I Walk the Line"), but unfortunately muffed some of the lyrics. The guitar part sounded good at least; that song is a rare example of having several "modulations," when the key changes in the middle of the song. I used the harmonica on the next two songs, including one by Jim Croce, who died when I was in high school. As I told the folks, I clearly remember what a shock that was. Most people there seemed to agree that the biggest shock of their lifetimes (in terms of rock musicians dying suddenly) was when John Lennon was murdered. I really nailed "Certain Kind of Fool," which has a neat-sounding intro and a soaring lead guitar part, and did pretty well on the difficult song "Spirit" (which I mistakenly called "Journey") as well.
With the year 2016 all but over, I decided to calculate how many songs I have done at the open mic events this year. The result: 83! That doesn't count the songs I did at the Augusta Bird Club dinner, since I played them again a few days later at the open mic night. It is worth pointing out that I have not played any song at those open mic events more than once. (That's probably why it's getting hard for me to memorize all the lyrics to those songs: my repertoire is getting too big!) Next year I will start playing songs that I have done previously. My total was boosted considerably by the three evenings in December when fewer performers showed up, giving those of us who did show up more time to play. I did 23 songs in December alone! The Music page has been updated accordingly. Whew!