A personal recap of the April 7 Get to the Point!:
A musical voice expected for the show was unable to materialize due to a crisis. A call was put out Monday morning. FOUR musicians arrived, throwing off the balance of music to words. But that’s OK. These singer/songwriters had answered a call of distress, and were very welcome.
Less welcome was the “open mic” attitude of one of the performers, who did all the obvious things that suggested he thought this was his show and he could go on as long as he wanted. He launched into songs before he could be brought offstage. He spent too long setting up. He played too loud.
Such things happen. They’ve happened with the word folks at Get to the Point! too. It’s remarkable, in fact, that they don’t happen more often.
What was wonderful was that the other three last-minute musicians DID get what the series is trying to do. One, Christian Marrone, tried out new material, and prepared for an upcoming New York gig. Another, Ben, immediately grasped that he wasn’t needed to play an entire set, and scaled back beautifully with songs that could appeal to the literary persuasion of the crowd. Another, Xavier, did a long flowing psychedelic folk piece that captured the tone and mood of the room.
Most impressively, both Ben and Xavier were willing to indulge me in the very exercise which I wanted to have a musician there for: so there could be background music when I read a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and a myth about Dionysus.
Thanks, guys. Music makes a difference. I’ll be careful with balance in the future. There are plenty of multi-musician events at Café Nine, and only one storytelling event. But Christian and Ben and Xavier get it, and can come anytime.
Mary Lee Delaney went first, talking about how she pranked an annoying guy back in her college days in Boston.
Jeffrey Thunders shared an embarrassing and elucidating anecdote about actually meeting, in a bar in New York, someone he’d idolized at the age of 14: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day.
Tony Juliano had found old slides of some of his cartoony paintings. He told some of the stories behind them—how priests had bought paintings mocking priests, how a doctor bought one featuring an “amazing iron lung,” etc.
Not incidentally, Tony also used his time onstage to propose marriage to Erica. He’d proposed previously, and this time it went just as well.
Craig Gilbert read some of his Little Nell poems, with large, funny, easy-to-see illustrations. After each recitation, Craig did a gentle flourish with his arms which I thought was as amusing as the words.
Seth Osborne read poems short and poems epic, including one referencing Café Nine.
I did a story myself, and am not sure I will again, at least not without notes. I am not cut out for long form extemporary oration. I like to watch others do it, and am even intrigued when they slip up. When I do it badly—get distracted, lose my place—I’m not so intrigued. I’m better off writing things down and reading them aloud—a practice that is not verboten at Get to the Point! the way it is at many spoken-word shows. If a piece of paper keeps someone on track, by all means they should hold the piece of paper.
I can do off-the-cuff introductions, and launch into short anecdotes, with ease and with a compelling vocabulary. I find those intros and follow-ups to be invigorating. But longform structure apparently eludes me.
An evening of revelations. Now I know where I stand.
I stood, in fact, for hours after the show wrapped up and had excellent conversations with several of the performers. Don’t always get a chance to do that.
The audience was considerably larger than the ones we’ve gotten on the stormy GttP days of January, February and March.
High hopes for May. Really getting back on track for spring.