As of 26 May 2008 the Monday night open mic nights at the Coogee Bay hotel have officially ceased after 4-and-a-half-years of operation. Jason Mannell, for the most part, has been running these nights non-stop every Monday night for the entire period of time, save for some help from Gavin and most recently, the friendly Simon.
The night has attracted a wide-range of players, singers & stummers and dedicated singer/songwriters. Many performers tend to dedicate themselves for a period of time, lay-off for a breather, and then reappear for another stint. More recently, over the past 18 months or so, Jason has been giving each performer half-an-hour's playing time. I found this to be most beneficial and satisfying as that amount of playing time is long enough time to 'get into the groove' and work the crowd in the meantime.
The gig is not an "originals only" gig though most people tend to play their own originals. On my own I used this gig to mix the originals with covers of songs I really liked, and given Eva Cassidy's influence as a masterful interpreter of other people's songs, I'd slant them my own way. Notable examples of this are Paul Weller and early Church songs. On the last night, 26 May, I played Church's 'Too Fast for You' and Weller's 'Town called Malice' & 'Wildwood'. After a batch of lively originals I finished up with 'Under the Milky Way' with Simon coming up to the stage for backing vocals - the middle section was wild! Other songs I've covered to my pleasure (and perhaps other's perplexation or consternation) include Ray Charles 'Hallelujah I love her so' and the McGarrigle sisters / Loudon Wainwright III 'Come along way'....there's always 'Birds' by Neil Young for good measure! ...and 'Tristesse'....I do like to think I do an acceptable job of (one of!) the greatest song ever written! Oftentimes I come in to the pub on a Monday night dreaming of being ensconced at home with slippers and herbal tea. But by the time I finish my set I'm invigorated and buzzing, that's the magic of the whole process.
However, it's a rough crowd down at Coogee. A lot of hardy English backpackers and local footy-playing Easty-beachy types. One night I came in with a storm over my head and noticed that the crowd was equally thunderous. There was some rough element in the audience but thank God all my experience in performance and playing rode it through well so I hit the shore running while the hecklers were left clinging to their liferafts. It's not the sort of place where performers can demand quiet, though those sort of people annoy me, authoritarian teacher-types who demand the audience shut-up for them.
Sometimes I'd bring along bumptious bluesy rocky band I used to be in and do an acoustico set with me on bass, Pete T on djembe and Gav on guitar & songs. I like hiding behind the bass, it gives me a sense of low-end power!!
Friendships and good connections were made at the Coogee Bay. I always love watching and supporting other people sing and play acoustic guitar - there is oftentimes musical magic in that minimalism. I'd love to set up and organise open mic's but then, these days I'm too tired, or just laid-back! I have been heavily involved with this in the past but got a bit burnt....it's very hurtful when you help people and they turn around and bite your face in return.
On this last night I brought my camera along and took 300 photos - I was snappy happy, even had people I didn't know holler out, hey, take a photo of us ! I've still got email addresses waiting to boil - they'll get their photos soon enough!
Pubs around Sydney are shedding acoustic acts - tragically from my point of view as that lands me out of these sorts of gigs - due in part, to rising interest rates and falling revenue due to anti-smoking laws. Perhaps we should all take our djembes and ukes elsewhere and set up our own openmics. Most gigs do pay about $30 for 45 minutes though the Coogee Bay was an unpaid gig - only Jason or whoever set up the system got paid, and surely the bar-takings made up the shortfall??
Perhaps it's a sign of the times. I'm partly glad it's over as I don't have to "force" myself every second Monday to play there, being as it is in my vicinity. However, I've developed good performance, playing and singing skills over the past few years and the Coogee Bay has been most instrumental in that process, for that, and to Jason, I'm thankful.
Until the next gig!