I decided to get to Chicago by way of Seattle (and later Vancouver) so that I might take the Empire Builder – one of two long Amtrak routes I’ve yet to take (the other being The City of New Orleans). Nick can attest to how rail adverts affect me. Amtrak likes to feature gorgeous photographs of the Empire Builder passing through Glacier National Park. I’ve never even been to Montana and the train would bring me to three previously unvisited States. Flooding in Montana effectively put a damper on this plan. So I ended up in Seattle anyways, with the sole objective now of seeing my friends Sheikh and Lin.
Seattle strictly enforces its busking license system, and I still wasn’t quite in the mood to do any. Allergies/possible ear infection unchecked and general laziness lead to my not busking in the charming Ballard district near Sheikh’s place. Ballard has that very Northwest feel of stubbly men and slightly portly women in ugly sweaters and other knits, sandals or moccasins, ear plugs and hemp handbags or bracelets, immaculate teeth and nails, BMWs, aggressive veganism and an omnipresent smell of weed. Naturally the music of choice isn’t quite in alignment with mine – Passion Pit and MGMT and this sort of music. I wandered about the first day through indie bookstores which didn’t stock the pulp I wanted to read and the library which did. Sheikh cooked up a beautiful beef heart, beetroot dish with a sesame vinaigrette salad and rice. The last in honor of my presence.
Sheikh and his girlfriend rise very early for work (before six), so they chose not to accompany me to an open mic about a mile’s walk away at Molly Maguire’s. Internet listings and calling indicated it would begin at 8.30, and to show up at 8.00 to get on the list. On arriving the bartender informed us the host generally didn’t show until 9.30 but we could start a list if we wanted to. (Two other acts arrived around when I did). I adopted a table of three starting to play gin – a card game very much like Mahjong. A charming married couple obviously very much in love and their guest Brett, a very pretty musician from Hawai’i. Oh that Hawai’ian accent!
An instrumental act opened just after 10.00 after the host Mingus tested out the system, followed by Brett and then me. Brett sang some feel good surfy originals, with a catchy Celebrate Yourself to open. A great stage presence unrewarded by a largely disinterested crowd. Hipsters tend to be that way. This didn’t bode well for my set, as I’d decided to debut two of my originals this night, both slower, more pensive songs that require a friendly audience. Or at least one that wants you to succeed. Most audiences run that way, but the combination of hipsters, old folks, and an Irish Pub atmosphere tends the other way. I sang my songs, with Kids thrown in the middle for a predictably warmer reception, pushed my CD and took a seat, hardly feeling as if I’d performed at all. Mingus very kindly re-pushed my CD for me, understanding the importance of selling them, but all to no avail as not even Brett and his friends took the faintest interest before ducking out.
After a old cover band and an regurgitatingly hipster girl duo/trio Minor Dissonance with a great sound – violin, guitar, beatboxer, smooth vocals – who took the stage for two songs too many, I walked the mile back to Sheikh’s place – uphill, in the cold, disappointed, alone.
Earnings: $0.00, 15 minutes
Song of the Day: Kids – MGMT