In an act of either laudable pecuniary acumen or savage recklessness, the Arts Council have elected to underwrite the beginning of my forthcoming project. If you take a peek at my Myspace page, you’ll see I’ve already got a nice little run of gigs coming up in April and May.
But most of them aren’t my usual cushy top-flight cash cows, oh no. I’m heading back to the performance trenches. I’m doing the open mic circuit.
Basically, I never did open mic nights. I was jammy. I had a bunch of friends who were already so thoroughly ensconced in performance scene that I was almost immediately able to leap into poorly remunerated gigs with my name on the bill and everything. And now, a few years later, gigging takes up enough of my time that I’ve finally admitted to myself that it’s something I want to do. It’s a job.
And as soon as I admitted that, it became a bit less fun. Suddenly, I got nervy. Shit, I thought, I’ve committed myself now. Is this what I want to do? Will I ever be able to afford to support myself? Why I am putting myself through this?
Anyway, look, I don’t want to run the whole spiel about why this is a rich research premise and why it means a lot to me personally. It ends up sounding like wanky flier copy.
The fact is, I’ve seen the shittiest live performances of my life at poetry open mic nights. Sometimes spectacularly bad, but more often poor, dull, self-indulgent twaddle that merely bores rather than appalls. On the other hand, I really like people. Dreadful poets often prove to be great people. And I’m not just checking out poetry nights. In fact, thus far, most of the nights I’ve got booked are stand-up slots. I’m really looking forward to meeting the people involved in a scene I know next to nothing about (presumably while bombing repeatedly to audiences across the British Isles). I’m also going to be visiting music open mics, to meet open mic musicians.
I don’t know what I’ll find. I’m looking for stories, I guess. I want to meet interesting people, and find out why they perform, what they hope for, what they’ve done with themselves, and maybe, in amongst the gurning imbecile wordsmiths, tomorrow’s zingy stand-ups, and the understated lyricists playing their plaintive ballads to an audience of ten, I’ll work out why I ever wanted to stand in front of a room full of strangers and say: ‘Look at me.’
If you know any good poetry, music, stand-up or ‘other’ open mic nights anywhere in the country (or world), please let me know. If I can, I’ll visit them.