A Gain in Gainesville, Day 5 by Virginia

My mother accompanied me to an Open Mic about as across town as a place could be and still be called Gainesville. She did not want to mention what I found most interesting about the experience there: the overwhelming Southernness, so I’ll describe that in my post next week. For now, I leave it to her, with just a smidgen of input from me.

    The Kickin’ Devil shone like a curio in the vast surrounding darkness of the quiet northeast neighborhood. It was tucked a few blocks in from Waldo Road on 27th avenue. After we parked, I was hesitant because of the surroundings but still eager to go inside to get out of the cold. Once inside, it felt friendly because of the brightly painted walls, dark bluish green, brick red, mustard yellow and pale green, colors of the glass lamp shades cradling four lamp bulbs on a stand at a corner of the restaurant.

    Four people sat around a table in the center and a few others were leaning against the bar. An older lady led us to the table next to the stage telling us that’s the space where the performers gathered. We were handed the menu, a few sheets of home printing inside transparent plastic sleeves. After we ordered our food, we decided to move to the other side of the restaurant to face the stage so that I could video record Terrence when he performed. The stage was wrapped in a grey carpet with a large reproduction of a painting behind it. Together with the other art pieces, the restaurant felt lively and cozy.

    Our food arrived but there were as yet few other dinner guests. We confided quietly that may be it was going to be a quiet affair. But gradually groups of twos and threes started coming in, some with instruments in black cases. Ed, the event host, walked back and forth on the stage setting up the loud speakers, amplifier and microphones. He took a while doing it and I ate my crawfish with pleasure for it was quite tasty. Though the portion was small, it was reasonably seasoned without the excess oil and salt in most restaurant food. Crawfish pieces were quite plentiful and the cream sauce quite filling so that I was quite full after I ate three quarters of the food.

    The event started with Ed playing snippets into the microphone to test it. He was followed by Linda playing three country pieces on the banjo. The man, the only black person there that evening, who had arrived together with Ed sat unobstrusively at one side of the stage and played various percussion instruments as accompaniment as he saw fit during Linda’s as well as the others’ performances. The microphone amplified intermittently during her performance and she joked about it. Ed came to our table, introduced himself to us and welcomed us to the event. He asked Terrence to be next but Terrence said the two men next to him should be and he would go after them. Terrence had just talked to these two burly men, who told him that they had come early, hoping to perform among the first ones for they had to pour concrete early the next morning. Ed introduced them as “Melrose Mark and his sidekick Eddie” and they went on stage after Linda. One played complicated tunes with the harmonica while the other sang as he strummed on his guitar.

    Linda while Ed fixed the soundboard.

    Melrose Mark and his sidekick Eddie.

    Terrence was next and he sang first his own composition, From Dawn to Busk, then a cover song Falling Slowly finishing with Stamsund, also composed by him. I liked his last song best for he created an atmosphere of thoughtfulness to the ambience as he was singing it. As he got back to our table, the cement guys told him they liked his Stamsund too. Different people drifted by as the evening wore on and complimented Terrence too on his singing. It made feel these people were very appreciative and supportive.

    After Terrence, it was a man singing with a ukulele. Though his words were sometimes muffled because he had to bend his head to check on his fingering, he sang with a personable attitude. One of his songs was the old Brazilian song “The Girl from Ipanema” in which I appreciated that he sang the parts in Portuguese without much of an American accent. Terrence thought so too though he was chatting with Linda’s son at the other end of the restaurant for we discovered that they knew each other from attending the same high school. Up next was Alex, a young man, probably a beginner, who sang “Wagon Wheel” low and often out of tune while Ed sang along with him a little.

    Kim and her first friend, a mannish-looking girl, sang with Kim playing the guitar. Then Erin walked on and sang with Kim to replace the other girl. Erin sang well, rapidly and rhythmically. Kim was very comfortable with the guitar and she had a good voice. Erin stepped off and Kim’s father, Brother Gabe, stepped on. He was wearing suspenders over his paunch and was quite jolly, acting out the moves described in the song his daughter wrote about him for her song-writing class assignment. Michael was last. He played the guitar extremely well, strumming it in a fascinating manner. He sang just one song but with a big voice. It was close to the time to wrap up the evening’s entertainment. Ed came on stage and thanked the newcomers as well as the old-timers and he reminded the audience to thank Walter.

    Kim with her first friend.

    Kim and her father, Brother Gabe.

    I felt I had a very happy and relaxing time and thought this was a wonderful way to spend an evening out and about.

Song of the Day: Stamsund – Terrence Ho (again, yup).

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