Note: Throughout this week, we will be posting photos, videos and accounts of some of the local open mic nights in and around Frederick. Today, we are sharing the experience of what it’s like to get up and perform your own songs in front of a foreign crowd. The performer at hand is FNP reporter Kelsi Loos. Why is she up today? Because there are no open mic nights we could find around town for Wednesdays, and plus Kelsi is the best. For those wondering, we will round out the week tomorrow with stops at Bushwaller’s, The Blue Sky Bar And Grill and Beans In The Belfry. Why? Because they occur on Thursdays. Get it? Got it? Good. The above photo is by Graham Cullen. The below story is by Kelsi Loos. Now, let’s dive in.
I can’t really tell you how my two-song set at the Frederick Coffee Company’s open mic night went because I was pretty close to passing out from nerves.
What I can tell you, is that it was a good time in a supportive environment.
I’m not an open mic regular, but Todd Walker’s Tuesday night event was by far the most efficient and fun of the few I’ve seen. Walker has eight years of experience hosting at Frederick Coffee Co., so it makes sense he has things running smoothly. I was impressed by how helpful he was in order to keep the show rolling. He set up my amp while I was tuning my guitar and he tore it down after my performance while I put the guitar in my trunk, even wrapping my cable for me.
I was glad I showed up at 6 p.m., because the sign-up board filled quickly. Half the people on the board that night were regulars, Walker said.
For newcomers who didn’t realize how popular the event is, like Frederick guitarist Courtney Wowk, it was a little disappointing how fast the slots filled. Regardless, Wowk was looking forward to watching the show, she said, even if she couldn’t play this time.
As I waited in the downtime between sign up and the event, I had a chance to talk with some of the performers.
Jay Henry, of Monrovia, said he’d been coming to the open mic night for about a year. He likes that it is downtown with a lot of traffic coming through.
“It’s just a friendly atmosphere,” he said. “I think this is one of the best.”
The night started with a young man named David doing what can only be described as karaoke drums. He played an electronic kit along to an emo tune. And then he stayed on to play with a bass player.
When it was my turn to get onstage, everything started to get fuzzy. I’ve been playing music for about 16 years now and performing very sporadically for seven, so I knew my onstage mental freeze was something more than the normal musical “zone,” where everything fades away but the beat. It was getting into the groove coupled with the nerves of being up there by myself without like-minded dudes (yes, it’s been almost always dudes) at my side. It’s impossible to overemphasize how different it is to play in a band than it is to play alone in front of people who may or may not be into what you do.
I played my two songs, “Black Boot” followed by “Tide Rolls Out,” which I had finished writing just the week before. I’m pretty sure they went off with just a few small hitches and the crowd seemed to like them well enough. I was grateful for the support of my coworkers who made it to the set.
After stowing my gear in the car, I had a chance to relax, come back to my senses, and take in the show.
I was most impressed by Keating Beach, a 17-year-old from New Market, who shredded the harp like nobody’s business. Before the open mic, she said this was just her third time performing and she was trying to get over stage fright. I didn’t believe her when I heard her play. She sounded way to good to be that green. Beach said she was inspired by Joanna Newsom and it showed in her choice of instrument and singing style.
The fact that my favorite act was a harp player gets at what was most special about the open mic: the variety. From singer-songwriters to the drum karaoke to my acoustic rock thing, there were a lot of very different tastes and styles represented.
I’m sure I won’t be leaving the Frederick News-Post for a career as a solo artist, but it was thrilling for one night to share songs that I’m passionate about with friends from work and a gathering of very talented people.