August 15, 2016
Guest blog by Gordon Peery
I first played open mics in the Monadnock region back in the mid seventies. I was working as a cook at the Folkway and often got to participate in their Wednesday open mic program, as well as the Nelson Coffeehouse that was active at that time. Probably a few others too, which have faded from memory. A few weeks ago I dropped into the Fitzwilliam Inn where John Sepe runs an open mic every Wednesday. I realized how much fun it was, so I returned last night with neighbor Lisa, a fabulous singer with whom I perform occasionally when she is up here (from Philadelphia) for the summer.
We had an 8:30 slot, but arrived before 7:00 so I could set up my keyboard, and so that we could enjoy the other performers. There was a warm and friendly audience and good food to be had. John runs a lean program – no formal introductions or em-ceeing – musicians just get up to play, introduce themselves, play three or four numbers, and then the next performers step up. This keeps the focus on the musicians. While things fit pretty much in the acoustic folk / little bit of jazz genre, there was quite a variety of talent and repertoire. Some performers were clearly more seasoned than others, but the audience (and fellow performers) were really appreciative of everyone. I particularly enjoyed a singer / singwriter named Tom Smith, whose music can be enjoyed from his website.
I was also delighted to find that one of our fellow performers was my old friend Caleb Weatherbee, an extraordinary finger-style guitar player who I first knew when he was a young teenager, studying with guitarist Guy Van Duser, and, like me, hanging out at the Folkway. We hadn’t seen each other for several years; it was nice to hear him play, and to catch up a bit.
Open mics play a unique role in our musical community. More than any other performance venue, they feature musicians who are truly playing from the heart. Towards the end of the evening a young man who wore a lot of anxiety on his face got up and sang a heart-wrenching song about the mother of five brothers who had all been assigned to the same ship during WW II. The ship was hit, and she lost all of her sons. His guitar was out of tune, and his voice waivered off pitch, but there was something truly compelling about his performance.
Kudos to the Fitzwilliam Inn for hosting this open mic, and to John for running it. I look forward to returning, as a performer and a listener. The open mic runs from 7 – 10:30.