In response to this guy who got in my face at the grocery store with a diatribe about how I have no right to be a music critic since I’m not a musician myself, I decided to attend the open mic at Second Street Brewery’s Railyard location.
I mean, I’d hate to be eviscerated in the postapocalyptic wasteland by a roving cadre of bandits without first subjecting a roomful of hungry people to my musical bullshit. Short of this guy showing up and admitting a fondness for my songs, this action served no real purpose except to prove to myself that I’ve still got it.
Spoiler alert: I don’t.
Hosted by local bassist Case Tanner, the event apparently attracts some pretty fantastic musicians, so I showed up early along with my freak-job brother, my jerkish buddy Dave and weirdo/SFR Arts and Culture Editor Matthew Irwin. The first few acts, while not bad, were truly uninteresting.
Dude 1 played a satisfactory rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but was otherwise forgettable. Dude 2 sang and played so softly that all I made out was something about a tribe. It was weird, and I was starting to get nervous. I hadn’t played in ages, and other than 300 cups of coffee, I had ingested nothing all day. As Dude 2 finished, I neurotically ran through a list of other things I’m good at in an attempt to stay calm. Dude 3 existed, and that’s about all I can say about that.
Just before my turn, Tanner helped me with some guitar adjustments and totally calmed me by saying, “You’d better not suck!” I stood in front of the microphone, cleared my throat, introduced myself and started stinking up the place. My fingertips ached; I couldn’t find the right vocal key; and I suddenly forgot my own lyrics. But when the crowd applauded supportively, I relaxed a little. I really hit my stride with song two, right up until I started boring myself. By song three, I was slightly out of tune, but instead of trying to fix it, I told myself I was punk and launched into my final number, a cover of seminal ’90s punk trio Jawbreaker.
I figured if a band that good couldn’t help me, all was lost—and it was. When the nightmare ended, I ran outside with my tail between my legs to smoke and analyze how I ever got to this embarrassing point.
Back inside, a young man named Jesse Berlin started shredding through some instrumental Van Halen. The entire restaurant watched in awe as he totally killed a series of nonstop solos and loops. Amid plentiful applause, I felt the leering eyes of a dozen patrons telling me I sucked. All I can hope is that, by the end of Berlin’s set, I had become nothing more than a distant afterthought. Walking home, my brother asked if I had made peace with my grocery store verbal assault.
“Not really,” I said with a sigh. “But if I ever see that guy again, I’ll just tell him I was awesome.”