Last night, I brought my lovely 20-year-old girlfriend to watch me play an open mic at Zog’s in Chapel Hill.
I should have known that this establishment had rules against minors in their bar – after all, the signs outside advertised skee-ball and other arcade games with fun colorful text (directly next to a bar that DOES allow under-21-year-olds). I had my guitar with me, so the bouncer knew I was just there for the open mic. I knew it would be a pain in the butt to drive all the way back to my girlfriend’s apartment (almost a whole mile away!) to drop her off so she could watch American Horror Story and lament on missing the event. I insisted that she could just drink water, but the bouncer wasn’t having it.
So, I drove all the way back to her apartment, dropped her off, and returned to my PAID parking spot (fame doesn’t come cheap) to play this show.
The dude who was playing when I got in was playing “Under The Milky Way,” an eighties song that the four of us earthlings under 40 really dig! He wasn’t doing a particularly masterful job – his hesitation and voice cracks were conspicuous. I half-heartedly listened as I made small talk with a comedienne who thought it was so interesting that I was an undergraduate at UNC – Chapel Hill.
After his set, I told him I dug his song selection choice in “Under The Milky Way.” I also awkwardly apologized for any other songs I may had missed due to me dropping off my special lady friend.
“That was actually my first song. Did you recognize the second?”
I did not. After admitting the fact that I didn’t know this song, I made my real faux paus.
“So, you only played 2 songs?” I asked.
This is a terrible question to ask anybody at an open mic. Chances are, if you are in the audience at such an event, you are not actively listening to the set the entire time. Conversations with fellow patrons are inevitable.
However, artists who make the effort to spend their weekday nights crooning in cheap bars tend to be super proud of their music (particularly if they play original music). If you give the most fleeting impression that you memorized any facet of their set in the slightest way, the performers will give you a doctoral thesis-level quiz on every breath, foot tap, and vocal run of the three songs that comprised their set (those songs having been crafted for hours upon hours in a dark bedroom whilst burning incense, channeling the inner spirit of Bob Dylan, and using everything they could ascertain from their beach-vacation reading of The Secret to gauge the Law of Attraction to finally get that pretty girl from work, Deborah, to ditch volunteering at the community playhouse for a night to watch them play a lousy open mic).
With this particular fellow, however, I was able to avoid the usual runaround.
“I played four songs,” he said, not giving me an ounce of eye contact.
Yikes. I wasn’t really paying attention to the dude’s set that much, and he 100% called me out on it right then and there. I tried to recover.
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” I said. Smooth. There were probably a total of 14 people in the entire building. There was virtually no one else to talk to (besides the comedienne) during this guy’s set, and I was playing it off like I had seriously forgot how the last 20 minutes had been spent. He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night. Rather, he left just as soon as my set started.
After I played, a few comedians performed (including my friend from before). Just as a testament to how disengaged most of the baker’s dozen worth of Zog’s patrons were during the event, she decided to direct the latter half of her act at a group of undergrads in the corner who were playing pool and skee-ball while acting completely oblivious to the comedy act going on. The six students carried on their games and chatter and didn’t give the slightest acknowledgement to the comedienne while she was openly calling them disrespectful for not even acknowledging her performance in any way, shape, or form.
You would think the host of the event would calm the madness and compel people to listen. But, no.
“Alright, we’re gonna open the arcade up for a skee-ball tourney after everyone finishes on stage here. Whoo!”
After paying $6 for my single beer, I decided it was time to make like Tigger and bounce.