Writing about World Music

Section X, Fall 2016

Open Mic Experience

On Tuesday night, my friends and I got together and jammed a bit. We had picked a couple times before playing mostly folk, gospel, and bluegrass; however, I never really sang many songs during our jams. We played a couple of songs, and the other musicians asked me to sing lead on most of them because I am a tenor, which, in there opinion, was more suited to bluegrass than their lower voices. After we picked several tunes, we decided to head over to the open mic at Nummit and played a brief performance.

We arrived at Nummit around 8:30 and sat through several performances before we got on stage. The other musicians were very good players and singers–there wasn’t an act that was “bad” or lacking in any musical quality. Yet, as the evening progressed, I grew bored with the music. This was a very different and strange perception as I normally am very interested in most musical genres and styles from jazz to classical to rock. As each new performer played, I realized that they were essentially performing similar styles of music. All of the songs played were at a very slow pace. The originals normally had a minor chord and maybe a I, IV, and V (Nashville Numbering System Chords), but besides that they seemed to lack flavor and energy. This is not a negative thing for the most part. In fact, most people at Nummit were studying, and the quiet slow music made for good background noise. Yet, as an active listener, I was not motivated to hear songs and artists that stuck strictly to a prescribed musical formula. Finally, the mold was broken. A jazz combo took the stage, and the combo hammered out some amazing tunes. One of my favorites was “All of Me,” a tune covered by Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and Ella Fitzgerald. After three songs, the combo moved off the stage, and we started setting up our instruments and gear for our brief performance.

After prepping our instruments, we lit into a very fast song called “Lonesome Road Blues.” The song was in a very high key challenging my vocal abilities. However, this gave the song more of an edge and drive which contributed to our performance. After this song, the guitarist sang a folk ballad called “Roll on Buddy,” and we rounded the set off with a gospel song called “Angel Band.” After our performance, we got several compliments. The audience seemed to enjoy our set and Live Thursday organizers talked to us about performing in the future. Reflecting on this, I don’t believe it was necessarily the quality of our music that garnered a positive response. I believe that several of the audience members were like myself: slightly bored with the musical monotony. The diversity of a bluegrass group and a jazz group helped to spice up the musical setting and livened up the atmosphere.

2 Comments

  1. I think that it is really cool that you were able to go and find time to jam with your friends. I noticed that most Davidson students find their safe space through music. There are always live performances or some dance performance going on and I love it. I have passed through my entire life looking to express myself through music.

    I recently went to the dance ensemble performance and was really impressed from a musical standpoint. I have been to several dance performances and sometimes the dancers choose their music based on personal preferences over the audiences preferences. However, the performers picked songs and dances that allowed the audience to also have fun and enjoy the performance. They also pulled people from the audience and allowed us to dance on stage. I think this interaction is also really important.

    Finally, I gave a tour to a family friend and we saw the set up for a live performance at Nummit. I am always really impressed that Nummit provides a place for students to express themselves and show their talents. Furthermore, I think that this allows for a unique study experience.

  2. I’m sure that getting to perform at Nummit was a good experience for you and your friends. Bluegrass is an interesting genre, and I think it’s really cool that y’all were able to perform. I understand what you mean by saying you felt bored after a while of listening to the other performers play their songs. It’s not that you don’t appreciate the music, but that hearing the same musical style over an extended amount of time can be tedious. As your brain is conditioned to the sounds, you in a sense grow immune to the sound waves entering your brain. However, when musical genres are varied, you are generally able to listen to the music with a more active focus. A person listening to rock music initially then listening to classical would most likely appreciate each of the respective sounds more so than a person listening solely to one genre or the other.
    Good job with the singing though, and you are probably correct in assuming that the other people in Nummit were bored with the musical monotony. By switching between Bluegrass and Jazz, it sounds like y’all were able to keep the audience interested.

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