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|Topic:||500th Rkstar Open Mic this weekend|
June 30, '12 2:54am
Has it really been 500 already? Looks that way. Calling the July 1 open mic "Number 500" was somewhat arbitrary, but here's some history of the open mic, and how I (Dan Goodspeed, your humble open mic host) calculated #500. In 2002, I was asked to take over the music booking for The Larkin Lounge in Albany, and one of my first goals with the new job was to bring an open mic back to the venue... as no open mic in the area had a piano (especially one as nice as The Larkin's baby grand). It was a big attraction for piano players when Mother Judge was hosting her amazing open mic at The Larkin the previous year. I had hoped to bring the magic back to the venue, though at the time Mother Judge's open mic had already found its new digs at The Fuze Box. It didn't take long for me to realize that Paddy Kilrain would make the perfect host, with her great stage presence, and arsenal of talent and songs that people would never tire of hearing week after week. So I was pretty happy when she agreed to my pitch. The next step was promotion. At the time, what is now Rkstar was called BUMrock, so I called it The BUMrock open mic, and used the online zine to promote and brand the new open mic. So as to not compete with Mother Judge's open mic, I put the open mic on Thursdays. The first open mic was on January 2, 2003. And with Paddy hosting, and I running the sound board and promotions, it worked. Really well. That summer The Metroland wrote a cover story about just how popular the new open mic had become. And it remained popular until May 1, 2004, when a new Larkin restaurant manager decided he didn't want music at the venue anymore, and cancelled all future shows and open mics.
I moved most of the shows to the newly-opened Moon & River Cafe, and the open mic and bigger acts to the Van Dyck, both in Schenectady. The summer of 2004 was the true heyday of the open mic, often bringing as many as 150-200 attendees throughout the night to the Van Dyck, the list always filled within minutes, and it truly became something magical. But as things go, the good manager left to work at Revolution Hall, and was succeeded by a series of increasingly-worse replacements, all of whom didn't like the huge crowd we brought in, when only 10-20% of them bought food & drink. It was a weekly battle, and eventually Paddy dropped her hosting duties to once per month (I found local musicians to host the other weeks), and we conceded to a $2 cover. Attendance plummeted. Eventually we were only getting 30-40 attendees per week. The final straw was in February '05 when we showed up to open mic to have the manager tell us "I couldn't find any wait staff to work upstairs", and he wouldn't let us in. Frustrated, a dozen of us walked down the block to the Moon & River Cafe, where owner Richard Genest welcomed us with open arms. As we sat there talking, we decided that the Moon & River is a far better place for the open mic, and it was small enough that I could host and run sound at the same time. I'd also lug my digital piano out every week, a lot more work for me, but far better than dealing with Van Dyck management. The M&R calendar was already fully booked, but on Sundays they had a rather unsuccessful open mic, which Richard graciously offered to me to take over. For the sake of not missing more than a week, I accepted, and we're still running strong on Sundays at the Moon & River today. There was a short 3-month stint where the open mic was moved to Richard's sister cafe, Arthur's Market, but we settled back at the Moon & River once Arthur's became too expensive to run. "But Dan!" you exclaim, "I counted the weeks since the first open mic, and the 500th week doesn't come until the first week of August, 2012! How can the 500th open mic happen in less than 500 weeks?". Great question, obsessive-compulsive reader. In the Fall of 2006, the owner of the Van Dyck (who admittedly was far easier to work with than any of the management he hired) saw the venue headed for financial catastrophe and decided he was nostalgic for those old open mic crowds. He got in touch with Paddy and convinced her to start hosting open mic on Thursdays again. Which she did... but nobody came. So the owner came to me, and asked for help getting the old school numbers back. I worked Thursday nights, so I could only stop by the open mic on my breaks, but I drew up a contract which went into detail as to how the open mic attendees should be treated, for both stability and common sense (which the Van Dyck previously didn't have), and branded it a second weekly Rkstar open mic. And people came... in reasonable-enough numbers. Though it was too-little-too-late for the struggling venue, and it closed six months later, where it stayed closed until new owners re-opened it in 2009. So, my friendly OCD reader, if you subtract six months, you get the first week of February. But seeing as there have been a handful of holidays and transitional weeks with no open mics, July 1 seems like a perfectly reasonable date to call the 500th Rkstar Open Mic. Sorry this was so long, you should see the metaphorical pile of cuts on the editing room floor! All-in-all, it's been an amazing 500 open mics, hundreds of new friendships were made, dozens of romantic relationships, and at least one marriage. Crazy, huh?
July 3, '12 4:50pm
CRUMBS.net raise glasses and cups of liquid refreshment to hoping that there will be at least another 500!