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My friend Dennis Darling has been co-hosing (with my new friend Joe Allen) an open mic night at Edgar’s Coffeehouse in Chatham, Illinois a few miles down Route 4 from Springfield. The April 22 monthly gathering was the 4th. Dennis offered me a ride to the event if I would bring my guitar and bother the air for a few songs, and I eagerly came along. I’m glad I did.The Chatham Goodwill building is on the north side of Chatham facing south. The fastest way to get there from most of Springfield is to take I-55 to the Chatham turn off right after crossing the Lake Springfield bridge and to west to enter central Chatham. Then turn north on Route 4 and left when you see the large white stone-finished building facing you. This avoids a lot of stop lights and traffic, especially during the evening rush hour.
I was surprised to see Edgar’s Coffeehouse on the west end of the building. I had planned to do some shopping at the retail (resale) store. Things happened so fast and fun as we arrived, I gladly forgot about shopping. First order of the evening was unloading the sound gear Dennis had brought. As we did that, I posed for a picture which he took with my camera.
Joe Allen and Dane were already making beautiful music when we arrived. We’ll see more of Dane later in this post.
As Dennis plugged his guitar into the sound system, I went to “work” with my camera. The instrumental sounds of Joe and Dane were as smooth and polished as anything I’d hope to hear from a Nashville recording studio. I cannot exaggerate my amazement. They KNOW their instruments and have clearly spent toms time practicing together!
View approaching the stage from the Edgar’s Coffeehouse Book Nook area adjacent to the restaurant where tables are many and the menu is terrific.
The first person to sign in on the sign-up sheet was this young lady who came with her parents and a karaoke CD that provided instrumental accompaniment to her songs. Dad rose to the occasion to video her performance and Mom was her vocal coach, seated close by and whispering encouragement. It was a friendly audience.
Dennis and Joe play/sang a few songs, popular tunes, the kind we’d hear on a TV variety show in the 60’s, and I’m telling you, the quality of the performance was as good as almost anything that appeared on Tuesday night broadcast. I know, it wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll, but I liked it! :)
Dennis Darling (left) and Joe Allen
Variety show it was! Many of the younger performers were from Chatham, and some sang in tribute to their faith and that is absolutely perfectly okay with this camera guy. Music is a creative process that comes from what moves us inside, whether it’s a perceived diets or a particularly memorable hug from your boyfriend or a ham sandwich you will never forget. Everyone had 15 minutes, but no one was interrupted and directed away from the microphone if things went a little longer. It was obvious — through eye contact and friendly conversation with ED (Emcee Dennis) at the end of a completed song or poem, when it was time. Some performers didn’t need 15 minutes, and that was okay too. In a few cases, that was a blessing. :)
Two of the Edgar’s Coffeehousse employees — shift manager Steve and Carla performed as well. Everyone valued the time given to share their blossoming and maturing talent with people who intended to be there and wanted to listen. I believe the experience from the audience was one of discovery, that their friend played guitar much better than tyhey realized, that what an aquaintance had written was downright eloquent.
Then it was my turn. No pictures survived the onslaught. You’ll just have to believe me. I knew what I intend to open with: a song most people already knew. “The San Francisco Bay Blues” which I sang with elements of Peter Paul and Mary, Eric Clapton and a heapin’ helpin’ of original Job Conger. I have never felt so overcharged and NERVOUS playing for the first time in a new venue. My friend Kevin didn’t believe I was nervous when I described my ‘xperience. “I’ve never seen you nervous in front of an audience,” he said. And he was right. Maybe it was how unpracticed I was, how uncertain. Earlier in the day I thought I could sleep walk through what I intended to sing. Didn’t happen like that. I made many mistakes, but I improvised and laughed my way through them. I’ll spare you the details. But we all laughed through it. The audience tapped their feet, swayed from side to side, smiled in all the right spots and had FUN. I also sang my “Don’t You Take the Mashed Potatoes” song and, acknowledging the kind of venue hosting the event, concluded with my song “Sally Got a Hickey.” I was sweating like Louis Armstrong ten minutes into “Mac the Knife.” when I stopped, but I could have sung another hour and a half. I was disappointed I hadn’t practiced, but there was no mistaking the success of my time shared. More wonderful talent followed
Joe played a solo tune or two, then . . .
introduced and played along with this well-practicvd hammer dulcimer player who used to play at Trout Lily Cafe in Springfield. The hammer dulcimer at its best is crystal melody, and it sure was Tuesday night. Joe knew what he was doing, played his guitar lightly to accompany, not trample the the dulcimer.
Dane, whom I had heard at the start, returned and played lead to some Nashville and Chet Atkins tunes as Joe played his part with consummate cool and aplomb. Dennis played a little rhythm action as well.
He was GREAT! :)
The evening was approaching 8:00 pm when we would have to call it a night when three more fine people shared their talent. I was not taking notes, but as I get to know the regulars, I will add names. Visitors who know these people are welcome to fill in my blank spaces by commenting after this post.
I close the pictures with three pictures of a player who came with a Dobro and a guitar and played the later as he shared a few songs. He LOOKED like a quintessential rock’n’roller, and when he played, I realized there was a gentle side to the gentleman, a side he shared with his instrument and the songs he wrote. I look forward to hearing more of him earlier into a “next” open mic — at Edgar’s Coffeehouse or purt near anywhere else . . . .
The next open mic at Edgar’s Coffeehouse in Chatham will take place Friday, May 30 and will run from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, an extra hour, and that’s a good thing. Please be on hand for this: to share music or poetry and to be a part of what promises to be a large audience for the occasion.
Kudos and THANKS to Dennis Darling, Joe Allen, Edgar’s Coffeehouse and Goodwill for this excellent evening. WE SHOULD HAVE A NIGHT LIKE THIS MONTHLY at the SPRINGFIELD STORE AS WELL. If you know anyone at the Springfield store, please describe the Chatham event, tell them about this blog post, and let’s see what miracles of faith might happen, aye?
As for me, I look forward to spending more time with my guitar and songs in the next month and seeing YOU May 30th!
Live long . . . . . . . and proper.