Anuradha kindly acquiesced to write a guest post for me about an Open Mic I played last week, 12.27.10, at the Laboratory in Gainesville. She arrived at around 10:45, so I’ll quickly recap the ridiculousness of the first hour. “Tom Miller’s Summer Unspectacular” is an extremely eclectic Open Mic he’s been running in various incarnations for twenty five years in Gainesville. He ran the show completely in front of the scenes, with long between act interludes and bucking the schedule entirely (the first two acts weren’t even on the list). He’d keep repeating, extremely drunk, “You get what you payed for,” an especially commonly recurring phrase during the first half hour when he wandered about stage with a rotund pal doing horrible standup comedy, the only bit I remember being something about Hitler.
Tom welcomed a “Reverend Angel Dust” to the stage, an older stayed-too-long-in-Gainesville man who preceded to read very irreverant and uber-liberal-Christianity-is-to-be-mocked-make-fun-of-the-government poetry with frequent “Amen”s and “Praise Jamba”s. He threw Tom into loud drunken raptures repeating the line “Nuidity is not lewidity.” The rest of the very long poem redundantly spoke of his solution to the war: “If we were all high on Afghani keef no one would be killing each other.”
The rest, I leave to Anu writing and Milana’s photodocumentation:
- Gainesville is a small town, the town in which Terrence and I were thrown together during high school and where we still meet from time to time. We don’t talk very often when he’s away, which is for most of the year. I spend the entire year in Gainesville because I still go to school here, but I make no secret of envying the friends of mine who have gone out into the world and left Gainesville behind as a repository for childhood memories. I still live there, but maybe one day I’ll get out. Maybe. Terrence, though, has gotten out without a care for what’s going to happen tomorrow and without the security that I have made a requirement before I venture out. I’ve admired him for having the bravery to do what he does, which is stir the emotions of strangers while expecting basically nothing in return.
Back to Gainesville. On a random Tuesday over winter break, I found myself at the Laboratory to watch Terrence sing at their open mic night. It’s funny how there are still places I haven’t gone to in Gainesville after living here for twenty years. The Laboratory is one such place that captures Gainesville’s weird underbelly. Sure, all small towns are probably weird, but we often think that ours is the weirdest. Or close.
When I got there, an older man was singing rather badly, and had apparently preceded the oldies song I walked in on with three also badly sung French numbers. This was weird, and perhaps a strange place for Terrence to sing. Then CineMike came on to amaze us with his boundless movie knowledge. Legend had it that he could connect any two actors ever. A short younger man, perhaps part of Gainesville’s hipster crowd, dressed in a long coat and a bowtie (whom I recognized the following week at the locally-owned supermarket), challenged CineMike with a seemingly impossible connection. Clark Gable and Lassie.
Then a nervous looking girl named Natalie and a dude named Evan did a duet, which was lovely. The only non-weird act of the evening aside from Terrence. It was a nice break from the monotony of CineMike, who was not amusing. After that we thought Terrence was going to go on, but alas. Our expectations were thwarted by a long introduction for a man in a full crushed purple velvet suit with velvet tiger stripe lapels and tiger stripe pant pocket detailing, topped off with a paper bag mask and a Santa hat. He had a small disco ball set up on a chair behind him and kind of shuffled around to a remix of “Stayin’ Alive.” It was kind of like a single line painted on a canvas that the artist might insist was “deep.”
Then, finally, we got to Terrence. He was nervous, but he didn’t sound it. One of the original numbers, “From Dawn to Busk,” reminded me to stop caring so much about security in life. Do we need to always know? His voice was soothing. I regretted not keeping in touch with him better at that moment, inexplicably. Of his covers, “Hey Ya” is still my favorite number. I think Terrence might have been the most legit act there. The audience was responsive, though we later decided that it wasn’t the best place for him to get exposure. It consisted mostly of older people, and Terrence was followed by a “bellydancer” who was mostly alright and could have been mistaken for pregnant. Sometimes you need to sing in your hometown in an open mic night and share the stage with CineMike and a bearded man in a crushed purple velvet suit with tiger stripe lapels, as the audience drinks beer out of beakers. Terrence defies society. And what it is to be stereotypically Asian. I’m trying to learn how to do that, too.
What a wonderful audience.
P.S. A gem I can’t leave out: The old man who sang first who went by “Wahoo” was asked his age by the audience after he blamed the lackluster reception to the generation gap. He responded: “I’m half a blowjob shy of sway sant noof.” (soixant neuf)
Song of the Day: Hey Ya – OutKast