What A Night!

I started learning the skills of an M.C. back in the late 1970’s hosting a twice weekly showcase night at a comedy club in Chicago called Kobart’s Komedy Kove. Since then I have M.C.’d open mics, acoustic jams, and folk festivals. Since moving to Madison, WI, in late 1994, I have had no trouble finding regular work using those skills. Last night (3 June 2006), at Escape Java Joint and Gallery’s open mic was one of the most remarkable experiences I have had in thirty-some-odd years as an M.C. The whole thing started as a way to sneak in an Andina and Rich gig at Escape. My frequent partner, Sandy Andina, and her other partner, Susan Urban, were booked this past Friday at Wild Hog in the Woods Coffeehouse, in Madison. They bill the act as S.A.S.S. (Susan and Sandy Sing). Both had agreed to stay overnight in Madison to so that Sandy could co-host the open mic at Escape with me. We billed it as “Andina and Rich with special guest Susan Urban”. I’ve spent a good deal of the last month trying, through e-mail, snail mail, and word of mouth, to get the word out about that particular night. The result was beyond my wildest expectations. We had thirteen performers (a record for us) and a full house of listeners. The latter part of that may not sound like much until one considers that the usual “audience” for any open mic is just the performers themselves. The quality of the performers was also impressive. We had a number of our regulars such as percussionist Cristopher Fox, and singer/guitarist Joe Pitcher. We also had a few working professionals like Robby K, and Douglas Hamilton (the latter of whom is well known to listeners of the Dr. Demento Show for his song "Free Gas") who came in just to break in some new material. In addition to that Ron Dennis came by with his autoharp and Ben Doran (of the duo The Dustbunnies) brought in his hammered dulcimer. Doug Hamilton had also brought in his upright bass and backed up Sandy and I for the finale’. We sang “You Can’t Do It All On Your Own” and closed, of course, with the Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips tune “Hymn Song”. The final list was (not in any particular order) Peter Kocher (his first time at ANY open mic) Christopher Fox Joe Pitcher The Colonel and Friends Ron Dennis Roni Douglas Hamilton Anthony (a performance poet who actually PERFORMS) Susan Urban Just Duet Charles (who was the host of one of the first open mics that I attended when I first came to town) Ben Doran Robby K The point here is that last night the open mic finally achieved what I’ve been trying to build since I arrived in Madison. We achieved community; a sharing of the music which transcends any individual involved in it. No matter how one goes about defining the genre’, this is what Folk Music is all about. To the performers, thank you for sharing your talents with us. To the audience, thank you for taking the time to listen. It is the combination of the two which makes it all worth doing. Do good. Be well. Stephen Lee Rich

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