MT Hellton, Kick Butt Coffee Open Mic Host, and his 12-string Seagull
At about an hour away by bus, the trek to Kick Butt Coffee on Airport is not one I make often. But I had a hankering to play and though I do love Flipnotics, I wasn’t feeling up to fighting the crowd for a spot on the list tonight. And actually, I’d never been out to the Thursday night open mic at Kick Butt yet! I’d been to the poetry one on Sunday nights, and I’d been to the Wednesday open mic at the Triangle location (which sadly, is no more), so yes, in a way this really was my first time to this particular open mic venue/host combination.
Photo by Nancy Hellton
Great sound system, fun baristas, nice audience. Well worth the long bus rides there and back! Plus the featured artists of the month was a band called The Lingering and they were tight with some incredible harmonies. Very nice.
The Lingering (also they have a Marshall amp. RIP Jim Marshall!)
I had a good response to my set. I think when there’s a good PA I relax more because I’m not worried about being heard. Also I’ve been doing vocal exercises 9 of the last 12 days, prepping to record next week, so that might have helped as well! Whoo recording vocals next week!!!!!
Songs: All or Nothing, I Know, Shoreline of Alaska
Photo by Amy Zamarripa
Saturday was fun. In the morning I took the bus downtown to check out the MPress Records party at the SoHo lounge, which really deserves a post to itself! I got to stay for the first few acts and then hopped on the bus to get to Fair Bean in time to see The Lovely Brigade’s set.
Things were running a little late but Amy said I could go ahead and do my full set, so I did 45 minutes. It wasn’t my first long set, but they are still rare enough for me that the difference between 45 minutes and even 30 minutes is noticeable for me, mostly in my voice I think, but also in terms of having more songs memorized and comfortable. Good to know. Another muscle to build. But in any case, I can now say I played a showcase during SXSW! I don’t think I would have believed you a year ago if you told me I would. :-)
Gary Graves & Tom Harvey were after me, so I stayed to listen to them and then headed over to Austin Java for the showcases there hosted by Killer Artist Agency and KC Turner Presents. Which also deserves a post!
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:
Wednesday was an awesome day. Gilberto came to visit me! I took the bus to meet him at the airport, and when we walked out of baggage claim, the bus was right there again, so we just took the bus home. He came with me to Rubicon where we had a nice catching up with Dan and realized that it had been pretty close to exactly a year since the first time we came down to visit and check out the studio!
We went straight from Rubicon to Backroads. Kind of. The bus was late. Which meant we missed our second bus and had to wait for it to come by again. There was a girl at the bus stop with a black smudge on her forehead. I was debating telling her that it was there, but the placement seemed intentional so I kept quiet.
It turned out that Ana B was on the bus that we finally got, so G got to meet her and we got to chat a bit on the way up to Backroads. A bunch of people got on at the stop by a church, and they all had black smudges on their forehead and it finally clicked in that it was Ash Wednesday! So glad I didn’t say anything to the girl. :-)
It was fun to introduce G to the open mic peeps at Backroads. Fun to sing him the new song I wrote for him live. We both got the 5 minute massages from Ariel. Raul convinced Ana to sing a few songs and her friend Mandy showed up and borrowed my guitar to play for their set.
Harmonies and guitar and piano and cajon, hooray! It was a great show. Unfortunately the kitchen had just closed, but luckily we found some tabouli, dolmathes and falafels in the mini-grocery section, so we still were able to have a yummy snack, just not the country we were expecting the food to be from. ;-)
Another fun thing about the show was Emily was wearing the guitar string necklace I made her and it looked cool! Always neat to see what my jewelry creations look like “in real life”.
It was great to be able to show G so much of what my life here in Austin has been like, from riding the bus, walking to Rubicon, talking with Dan, open mics and shows. Kind of amazing that it all happened to be on the same day!
Songs: Anchor, I Know, Keep Telling Me, Wings
My Friday evening, February 10th, in two parts!
PART 1: Fair Bean
I felt pretty lucky when I checked out the bus schedules for Friday night and realized I could get to all but the last 30 minutes of the Fair Bean open mic AND to the Blame Sally concert at Skinny’s Ballroom afterward. The only trick was, I didn’t want to cart my guitar downtown to a show that I was there to watch! Luckily Amy Z has a sweet little guitar she will let people borrow, but I did for a minute feel like I was re-enacting Jana’s “Sh*t Folk Singers Say” video - “Can I borrow your guitar? Can I borrow your tuner?” I didn’t have to ask for a capo since it was already on the guitar, but did have my own pick at least! :-)
Photo by Amy Zamarripa
Songs: I Know, All or Nothing, Keep Telling Me
Part 2: Blame Sally
I was looking forward to checking out Skinny’s Ballroom as I’d heard of other bands playing there but never been, and I was reaaaally excited to see Blame Sally since they’d been recommended to me from several folks. Skinny’s was sweet, definitely a long and skinny room, and Blame Sally did not disappoint! Skinny’s has an open mic on Mondays that I’ve never been to because that’s my group practice night, but they are doing a thing where they choose their favorite act on Monday to play a 7pm slot on Friday, so there was an opening act guy. He was good, but not necessarily someone I’d choose style-wise to open for Blame Sally, so I felt a little bad because most of the folks there just weren’t paying attention to him. C’est la vie!
But yeah, Blame Sally. Wow. They’ve been playing together for 11 years now I think they said, and they are tight! The harmonies are amazing. It’s a good reminder of how polished and pro things can be, especially after getting so accustomed to open mic levels, which are a mixed bag of awesome and not so much. It’s also good to imagine that they were at open mic level however long ago, and that through time, work and persistance, you get “there”, whatever that means! It also made me wish I could play multiple instruments with ease and had a band all the time!!!!
The last time I was at Backroads two weeks ago, Raul (the host) challenged me to have a new song by the time I came back, and I took him up on it. I needed my notebook to get through it, and I think there may still be a few tweaks to make, but it was good enough for open mic, and felt good to have something new. :-)
Another new thing at Backroads was a massage therapist had her chair set up in the back and was offering free 5 minute massages in exchange for tips. I gave her my drink ticket that I got for playing since I wasn’t really in a drinking mood and I definitely wanted to give her something for working on those tight knots in my shoulders, wowzers!
Songs: Keep Telling Me, I Know, Jonah’s Whale, All or Nothing
The open mic at Whip In is on Odd Tuesdays. That means the 1st, 3rd, and if there is one, the 5th Tuesday of each month. Which means sometimes you’ll have two weeks in a row, when there’s a 5th Tuesday the week before a first Tuesday of the next month. It’s really not that confusing, it’s just a little odd. Which fits the Whip In.
But some people mistakenly think of it as “every other week”. Which is probably why when I showed up a little late on the first Tuesday of February, which came after a 5th Tuesday in January, I was the second person on the list, and I got to do five songs. I had been crossing my fingers I’d get to play at all, because other times showing up late meant playing late, even with everyone only playing two songs. Since I was bussing it that night, I had a definite deadline to get home if I didn’t want to walk an hour in the dark.
So it was a treat to not only go on shortly after arriving, but also to get to do a longer set. Better still, there were people and whole tables actually paying attention and enjoying the songs. Partway through, a few other musicians showed up, so it turned out to be a sweet little open mic night after all. Still it was cool to know for myself that if they hadn’t, I would have felt totally comfortable playing even longer!
To top it off, after my set, one of the waiters tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to a couple who had been attentive and appreciative while I played, and said, “Hey, they want to buy you a drink.” I felt a little like a rockstar for a minute, ordered a beer and brought my dinner over to their table to hang out. They were both big music fans and we talked about different bands and festivals and venues and creative inspiration. I didn’t quite catch what she does, but he designs children’s toys and they are pretty darn cute if you’ve got any little ones who need presents! http://giggletoys.com/ They bought drinks for the duo that went on after me as well and we all sat and chatted between songs. One of the gals who I noticed was enjoying my set came up to say so on her way out the door.
All-in-all, a pretty awesome night! It is fun to look back and remember that it was only June last year that I did my first open mic in Austin at Whip In, and how nervous and sick I felt, and how rough that performance went, and that 8 months later people are buying me beer?! Neat! :-D
Songs: Keep Telling Me, Rain Song, I Know, Jonah’s Whale, Sister’s Prayer
Yes, this is a very crappy cell phone picture of a robin, but it’s important to me for so many reasons.
I have been very grateful to skip over the bone-chilling midwest winter this year. Snow is beautiful and quieting, but the days upon days of the cold that just seeps in and makes me feel creaky and cranky, no, I don’t miss those. I still think it’s crazy that it was only in the last 3 or 4 years that I discovered wool socks, and only last year that I discovered the sauna as winter survival tools. I think they’ve had some pretty amazingly warm days back home this year, but I’m sure their cold days have outnumbered the ones here both in number and degrees.
It’s also interesting to notice things like my personal “January Funk” and that I often seem to experience it no matter where I’m living. It’s interesting to me to speculate on how much of it comes from cold weather, or cloudy days. Interesting to wonder sans snow how much might be habit, how much might just be my brain chemistry, recovering from the over-indulgence of the holidays, needing to rest after expending so much energy in the holiday run-around, the post-holiday let down if things didn’t live up to expectations, the New Year’s annual life evaluation which is maybe amplified by it also being my birth month. Or some combination of all the above.
It’s a little embarrassing to recognize that for all I’ve done and as far as I’ve come, I so often still wear the blinders that allow me to only see what I HAVEN’T accomplished yet. Whenever I remember, I’ve been practicing slowing down and celebrating the accomplishments and wins.
It’s coming up on a year of the first time I set foot in Texas, when I tagged along with Gilberto on his business trip, so I could check out Rubicon Artist Development. I’m not sure I could have even imagined at that point that a year later I’d be able to say I had performed two or more songs 113 times in dozens of places in front of strangers, that there would even be people in the audiences singing along sometimes, that people would tell me my songs were stuck in their heads, ask if they could cover them, that I would have performed in multiple band situations, had my own show at Cafe Paradiso, gotten paid tips for my music on more than one occasion, completed a Berklee songwriting certificate and be almost a month from recording my first professional album! And that is just to focus on some of the musical achievements. There are others, non-musical as well.
One benefit to distinctive seasons is they give you distinctive measurements of time, more obvious cycles of rest and renewal. So getting back to the robin, it’s usually February when I see my first robin of the year, and it’s usually a day of celebration for me. The first robin, the first crocus, these are the signs that winter is losing its grip, that spring really, truly will come, that no, this is not the year that winter is indeed going to last forever.
There was a point last fall where my roommate and I noticed that moment where it had started getting darker sooner, and that knot of dread punched me in the stomach, the dread of long, cold, dark coming up. I had to stop myself and recognize that while it was indeed going to be darker, the cold part wasn’t going to apply in Texas. It was amusing and interesting to watch the instinctual reaction and then pick it apart mentally.
So seeing the robin today, the first robin of the year, and then many others in the same tree, and I got that instinctual little burst of hope, the reminder that winter doesn’t last forever and spring is on the way. It was a little heart balm to be reminded that some things are the same no matter where you are. My spring this year may not be as dramatic weather-wise, but recording and having my first CD is a super significant, long awaited new beginning. What it will blossom into I just don’t quite know yet, but I’m excited to see, and I bet it’ll be beautiful.
Photo by Amy Zamarripa
Another fun night at Flipnotics!
I actually ended up heading down way early to hang out and get some work done, needed a change of environment to change up my focus, so I got there somewhere a bit after 5pm. There was a great happy hour set with a boy from Alaska with lightning fingers who could sing the blues like an old soul and played slide and mando and resonator and filled up the tiny room and beyond with his voice. I can’t remember his name and it’s not on the Flips calendar, but it was amazing.
Somehow even with getting there so early, I ended up #18 on the list. I could feel the minute I stepped out on the deck that it was going to be one of the super mad dash nights for signups. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t make my bus home or at least have to zip out the minute I got off stage, but luckily Apatua said I could get a ride home, so it ended up that I played to pretty full room and got to stay till the end and hear all the rest of the great acts.
We had a super huge storm a couple nights ago, with thunder so loud and close that it woke me up a little after 2am, so rain has been on everyone’s mind. Flips is a great place for sing-alongs because everyone is paying attention, so I got the whole room singing for Rain Song.
Adding to the fun of the night, Lisa had an event to go to, so she asked Amy Z to fill in for the second part. I’m curious to see if more people come out to Fair Bean tonight and join the Facebook group now that they’ve heard more about it!
Songs: Rain Song, Wings
Tonight my roommate Havilah was playing an early short set with Billy Masters at Romeo’s.
My other roommate was on tour and left her car here, so I was able to get from Romeo’s to Backroads in time for the open mic.
This is a crappy cell phone pic of a super awesome band that played at Backroads called Rixon:
They are awesome, go check them out: http://www.rixonmusic.com/
It was a nice full list, so we got four songs.
Songs: Shoreline of Alaska, Sister’s Prayer, Split in Two, Jonah’s Whale