Top: The Doras - Connie, Mariana, Heather
Bottom: Emily Shirley, Katie Lessley
There are a few things that are a little hard to believe when I sit down to write this post:
1. I’ve played my songs and solos on other people’s songs in a band.
2. I’ve been doing that for almost a year now
3. That year is almost up!
4. I forgot to get pictures of our final Rubicon Showcase!
I did get some videos, which need a bit of editing and my iMovie is acting up. As in, I think I might have to buy the new version. Boo. But I grabbed some screenshots at least for now. We couldn’t all fit in the same frame, so here is me and Connie:
And here is Mariana:
We did a five song set together and kept it pretty simple this time around. I was on my acoustic the whole time, Connie on her mandolin and Mariana on her acoustic for all the songs except Anchor where she did the shaker instead.
Songs with The Doras:
Keep Telling Me (Heather)
Let the Mystery Be (Iris DeMent cover by Connie)
Joyful Noise (Mariana)
After our set the guys group did a super-kick-ass-funky-got-me-dancing-in-the-corner set. Then there was a bit of a break and most people cleared out and then I finished off the day with one last set on my own. I had two songs ready, and since it was my last Rubicon showcase, Dan said some nice things about me and even had me play one more song.
Solo: Wings, I Know, Shoreline of Alaska
I’m sure gonna miss the band! Luckily we are doing one more show together out at the Red Shed on April 24th!
I’ve done some mini-vlogs, but it’s been quite a while since doing a big check in like this, whoa… Anyhoo, this one is about continuing to do open mics after my Christmas break, doing some bigger shows, reading a great book called “Uncertainty” by Jonathan Fields, my 100-open-mic guitar string earrings, my upcoming unofficial SXSW showcase, looking back at how far I have come and starting to think about what happens after this Rubicon Year is over and getting ready to record my EP!
People & places I mention in the video:
Tupelo Honey, studio dog extraordinaire!
OK, I’ll admit it, my first few days back in Austin I was pretty mopey. I missed my husband. I missed my friends and family. I missed having a car. I missed my kitchen. Plus it was dark and rainy and cold. And there were some scary attacks over New Year’s that made me a little nervous to go out much.
On Monday I had my first group band night of the season and we actually didn’t play one note. We talked about music, making space for it in our lives and how that might look different than we think it “should”, how we all of us to some degree or another really strive and aspire to be better and more, and yet we brush off our musical achievements or don’t even notice or acknowledge how far we have come. It helps to be there with other people going through the same things because I can see that if X is true for both or all of us, then if Y is happening to someone else, then maybe Y is happening to me too.
So it was really good. Helped me at least partly see how little credit and celebration I allowed myself for my Cafe Paradiso concert in December. Because that was a really big deal for me! HUGE! And it went awesome and I’m totally allowed to ride that high for as long as I want. :-)
Tuesday (yesterday) was my first one-on-one with Dan and we started it with me playing through my 5 EP songs. A little 5 song concert. I had fun, it went smoothly, the songs are sounding stronger than ever and I still have till March to keep polishing. To think that when we started our first session last May, I couldn’t even play Dan one song, I was so shy!
Last night I got out to two open mics, OPA’S and Waterloo Icehouse on 38th. Played 3 songs at OPA and got asked to be a feature there (as in, open the night with a 30 minute set) on January 31st! It was the first night of the Waterloo open mic in that location, so with a light list we all got to do 5 songs, so I played my EP songs. At both places I met new people and made new connections. Kind of amazing that with 106 performances now, I am still meeting awesome folks and hearing so much new great music.
So yeah, a little bit of a creaky start, but I climbed back in the saddle. I’m excited for the ride of this final session of my first Rubicon Year!
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #100.
Lisa Kettyle plays a mean uke! And her outfit happens to match the venue. :-)
Perhaps one of my favorite open mic stories to tell is about the sign-up process for the Flipnotics Open Mic. Probably because it’s the most dramatic. It’s pretty standard that sign up is anywhere from 15-30 minutes ahead of the musical start time of an open mic. Depending on the venue, you either need to get there on time to be able play at all or on the other end of the spectrum, you can safely waltz in 30-60 minutes late and still get a slot. And in either case, there will be some nights where the opposite is true.
At Flipnotics, the list is pretty much always full. Music starts at 8pm. Around 7:30, musicians start milling around on the deck outside, pens in hand, hovering near the table where Lisa Kettyle, the host, usually puts down the sign-up sheet. Some of the musicians have been there since shortly after getting off work at their day jobs, but it’s 7:30 when the hovering starts.
At 7:45, Lisa comes out with the list and 2 or 3 pens, hollers, “I’m putting the list out!” and the feeding frenzy begins as everyone jockeys for an earlier slot. People have gotten jostled, scratched and marked with pens in their attempts to sign up. It’s not always that way. One time when an actually line was forming for sign-ups I said out loud, “Oh look, a civilized queue!” and someone else responded equally enthusiastically about it, and the couple of boys who were about ready to pounce slunk back into line as well.
Lisa has said she tried a few different ways of having people sign up, like lottery style for example, but during that month of experiments, attendance dropped. As soon as she announced she was going back to the old way, attendance went back up. The style doesn’t work for everyone, I have heard while making the rounds to other open mics that some people don’t usually go to Flipnotics mostly because of that sign up system. But the beauty of Austin is there are so many open mics, you’ll find the one or few that work best for you and your music.
After the sign-up process, Lisa explains the rules, (be in tune, no super long songs, don’t sing along with the performer unless invited,) and the fact that it’s a listening room environment. There are a few other places in town where the people do listen, but the thing that sets Flipnotics apart even from those is the bar is actually separated from the stage area, so the the people who are in the room are really choosing to be there and spillover noise from running the espresso machine, cash register, etc is minimal.
Which also means I was able to get a pretty decent video of my performance:
Lisa also has the room vote on whether everyone will do 2 or 3 songs. With a full list, 2 songs means everyone gets to perform. 3 songs sometimes means the last few people won’t get on before closing. On the nights that I’ve been able to stay till the end, often times 3-5 performers won’t stick around and the people that do stay still get to perform. Lisa also has a policy that if you’re on the list, stay till the end and don’t get to play, she’ll put you on the list wherever you want next week.
Flipnotics was the 3rd open mic I played in Austin back in June, so it was pretty great to look back from performance #100 and remember that on that first night there I was playing without a pick and was barely projecting - to the point that Lisa turned off the AC so people had a better chance of hearing me. So to be playing with a pick, no mic, be able to talk while tuning and make eye contact with the audience, all that is a really great measuring stick of how far I have come in the 7 months I’ve been playing out.
Songs: Anchor, Shoreline of Alaska
1601 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
Thursdays - Sign up at 7:45, Music at 8-till close. 2-3 songs depending on how long the list is.
Favorite Flipnotics eats: Delicious empanadas, I’ve had the spinach mushroom, samosa, that came with some yummy garlic sauce, and the sweet potato pecan that came with whipped cream. Great smoothies and espresso!
Other things I like about Flipnotics: Awesome, multi-level deck outside. Bar space is separate from the stage space so not only is it a listening room, the bar noise is minimal.
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #95
photo by Amy Zamarripa
Tonight I set out to catch the bus at 4:45, expecting to be at Fair Bean just a few minutes after 5pm. There have been a couple times in the past few weeks where one of the scheduled busses just doesn’t seem to show up - two will pass by in the other direction before the one in my direction comes by. It was a little bit late and a CapMetro truck pulled up to the bus stop and waited for a few minutes. The guy finally rolled down his window and waved us over to say that the bus was on detour because the train was blocking the tracks, and so if we wanted to catch the bus we were going to have to go a couple blocks south to the stop just across the highway. By the time he actually told us this and we started walking toward the stop, we could see the bus already there and we missed it. Which meant another 20-30 minutes of waiting, and not getting to the open mic till about an hour after it started. On the plus side, my beat-up bus pass worked when the bus did finally come!
Luckily there was still plenty of room on the list and actually a few people there to just listen (as opposed to all musicians, which happens sometimes) so I did my first set to a cozy little crowd.
I had a beast of a time with tuning, which was frustrating. I tuned up before my set, but as soon as I got the capos on it was out of whack and I couldn’t quite figure it out. I think though that between the hours of rain today, standing out in the cold for way longer than I expected, and then moving into a super warm and cozy coffee shop, well… yeah, I’m gonna blame it mostly on the weather.
In any case, the tuning issues helped dictate what songs I ended up playing, because I ended up taking off the capos, starting over with the tuning and playing one with no capos, one with only one, and finally one with the doubles. Even that didn’t seem to be quite exactly in tune, but I focussed on the low strings and tried not to play the high ones as much and I think it worked out good enough for folk-rock & roll open mic.
I was last on the official list, and most people left after that, so the remaining of us circled up on the couches and went around playing a couple more songs for each other. It was a sweet way to finish off the night.
Round 1) Keep Telling Me, Anchor, Winter Time
Round 2) Lazy Saturday, Wings
Fair Bean Coffee
2210 South 1st Street, Suite I
Austin, TX 78704
Sign-up at 4:45, Music from 5-7:30ish.
Favorite Fair Bean treats:
Iced White Mocha, Red Symphony Latte, Orange Bars (like Lemon Bars but with orange!), Veggie Chorizo Empanadas, Hard Boiled Egg
Other things I like about Fair Bean:
Fair Trade coffee, comfy couches, plenty of plugs for laptops, big glass windows to let in the light and allow for people watching.
Talking about progress, practicing, and working my way through the Rubicon Artist Development reading list.
Oh, and I have made it to 83 open mics since June! Going for 100 by Christmas break!
One of my favorite parts of my Rubicon Year is the group sessions. Every week I get together with 3 other women and we each have a song where we are the lead singer and band leader, and we back each other up. It’s a great way to learn new instruments, hear your song in a different way, practice working with others and gain a deeper understanding of music.
Dan is there to facilitate, support, help us out of the true stuck spots and reflect back when it’s working. The more we get to know each other and ourselves though, the more we realize that yes, if someone came up to us and said we could have $5000 for performing a song the next day as a band, and Dan was out of the country, we could totally figure out how to do it on our own and rock some faces off, even if we had to stumble our way slowly through to get there. :-)
Music is a social experience. It’s meant to be shared. I think maybe as adults, if we don’t already have a fluency of musical expression that we see in others, we revert to spoken words for their efficiency and precise refinement of meaning. The risk of hitting a wrong note feels too embarrassing, maybe similar to not being able to conjugate a verb in Spanish. But when you’re in South America all alone and no one around speaks English, you just do it. The more you speak, listen and immerse yourself in the language, the more you learn it. And you also find out that yes, for the most part you can get around just fine with your broken phrases. The communication happens in the eyes, the heart, the hands, as much as, if not more than in the words.
Having a safe space to practice and a kind and compassionate leader who can help you out of the jams, and push you to keep stretching into higher levels of mastery really accelerates the process, whether it’s Spanish, Improv Theater, or Music.
Feeling much gratitude today for my teachers past & present, and the other brave souls who have joined me in those classes where we pushed and supported each other to do things we didn’t know we could.
Emily Shirley, Heather Miller, Katie Lessley, Jana Pochop
As of this post, I have performed at 74 open mics or showcases since June 7th, 2011!
I’ve learned and gained something from every single one. I know I’ve grown stronger as a performer both from the feedback from people who have watched me and said so, and from my own measuring sticks, like the fact that I’m using a pick now, and that I’m singing much louder.
I’m pretty excited that my 75th performance since starting my Rubicon Year will be as part of a showcase with some other really awesome songwriters who I admired from afar for a while and more closely in the past few months.
By closely, I mean for example, here they all are together in our living room singing a Susan Gibson song, Evergreen:
Now, we are each doing our own set of songs, but I bet there may be a chance they’d do this one on Tuesday. I guess you’ll have to come see to find out! :-) See below for the info and links to their various websites and such.
There are just 3 more weeks of Songwriter Showcases hosted by Amy Zamarripa at The Red Shed before a winter break. Come out and enjoy the great courtyard atmosphere and fresh local music the next few Tuesday nights!
This November 1st, the line up features:
Music starts at 7pm!
Red Shed Tavern
8504 S. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78745
Hope to see you at The Red Shed!
Playing my song “Jonah’s Whale” with the Band That Has Not Yet Been Named. :) So fun!
We spent 12 weeks getting together on at Rubicon Artist Development on Monday nights to work on 4 songs (one for each of us) in the group. This was at our final showcase performance.