I had my first gig last night, a solo show at the Mercury Cafe in downtown Denver. It’s a distinctly hippie place, full of heavy velvet drapes in lieu of doors, rich purples and greens and reds. I played in the “Jungle Room,” a largish place with little dark wood round tables and armchairs with spooled backs, wooden floors, christmas lights of red and yellow strung up along the far side, red drapes cordoning off the kitchen and bar areas, and a modest stage half occupied by an old wooden piano with the strangest keyboard like action. When I contacted the owner about the gig she was distinctly cold and unfriendly to me, but I suppose she let me book it, which was something the other bars/cafes I contacted didn’t do. Most of them have yet to respond. Unfortunately it was a free gig, which doesn’t help my income any. Then again, were it not I’d have no audience.
The waiter who helped me set up and served me some tea (I failed to take advantage of a free meal because the owner hadn’t indicated that was in the cards…) was the most enthusiastic of the waitstaff, coming up to speak to me afterwards, too, telling me I had a good taste in music. A tall, spindly man in hippie rags and long hair and foppish manner. Steve, Maria’s roommate, helped me balance the guitar and voice. I stood right up at the edge of the stage so I might see my audience better through the blue-hued shine of stage lights. I knew the vast majority of my audience – seven of the fifteen who stayed for a significant portion of the time. I knew everyone who stayed the whole way through. The waiters and bartenders encouraged me, however, by popping in often to listen at the back.
I was to begin playing at 930PM, and I told the man who’d just shown a hippie conspiracy theory type documentary to stick around, and he did. At 940, with Chris’s friends yet absent and Ashley and Henry not yet arrived, either, I decided to just go ahead and begin. Thanks to the monthly recitals “play-ins” my violin teacher mandated for us in my youth, I was only the slightest bit nervous. Right as I began, an late middle-aged coupled stopped on their way upstairs and gave me gentle tips as to how to position my voice mic better. They stayed for a few songs.
I began with Hey Ya to get my energy up. The call and response section didn’t meet with much enthusiasm, mostly embarrassed titters – too small of an audience to feel comfortable being so engaged, I suppose. From there I launched into a one and a half hour set list based conceptually around my travels in Europe. I interspersed an equal number of covers and originals as I told of Scandinavia and East Europe and busking in general. Talking felt natural and comfortable. I think I can thank Jook Songs for that. Halfway through my second song, Purple Dress, an annoying buzzing sound began from my left, never quitting for the rest of the show. At about the same time, two cafe patrons sat down nearish the front. This pair of youngish men warmed to me slowly after my energetic Liberta, and by my second to last song they were grinning shyly at me. All my audience was extremely considerate with their silence or hushed, brief conversations. Two engaged couples were in the audience, so I sang them Gotta Have You.
It took some time getting used to hearing my voice out of speakers and out of my own mouth to feel comfortable with my pitch. The coldness of the room also did a number on my guitar strings. A trio of young men joined after a few more songs, and right before Mad World and Mario Kart Love Song, Ashley and Henry joined – perfect timing as these were the two songs she was most looking forward to. Not long after that, Chris’s two friends Dan and Hannah joined, and from their expressions they seemed to really dig me. My audience laughed at my stories, comisserated with my telling of racism, stayed engaged throughout my songs. I’d worried before I’d have to cut my set list short but it ended up a fine length. I think the only thing off was occasional problems with my voice – due to allergies, oversinging for recording, etc. – but nothing horrid.
My main flubs came towards the end, as I’d never really thought of how to go about doing that. Though Ashley loved Stamsund, which I closed with, I very awkwardly introduced Steve to play a song after me, and never adequately thanked my wonderful audience. Steve played a great cover of Gypsy Woman on the piano, and that wrapped up our set. I realized as he played that I’d completely forgot to plug myself. The two men had taken their leave during Stamsund, as had the trio in the back. I even forgot to tell the waitstaff anything about how or where to find me. Luckily I remembered in time to jot down the names of six people to contact for the impending release of my EP.
Audience: 15 people, 1.5 hours
Song of the Day: Car No. 5 – Terrence Ho