Thursday, September 15, 2005

This Past Tuesday

Oh. My. God.
I don't know where to begin about the other night.
I will try to go in order.
I woke up.
got stuff together for show.
Ran errands.
Picked up Taalam from airport around 3:45. (airport security in the passenger pick up section are a group of assholes. yes I said it. Maybe not all of them, but the little skinny kid blowing his whistle at me and the cat who ran up on me in his SUV? Punks.)

Went home for Taalam to freshen up and so I could change. He is asking questions about how many people to expect, etc.
Apparently he has had some gigs recently where the person booking him would say "oh we get 80-90 people easy" or "last week was hot". Then he would get there and it would be like, 5 people and 3 of them work there. At one spot he went to the bartender to order a drink and asked if the crowd would be coming in later. The bartender told him that the 12 or so people there at the time WAS a GOOD crowd for that night. Sheesh.
First moral of that story- don't lie. Just tell the truth and let t poet decide to accept the gig or not.
Second moral of the story-As soon as you get somewhere, holla at someone who works in the space but not FOR the people bringing you in. You are more apt to get a real person view of what goes down.

Of course, I tell him my stats. smallest crowd to date-25. Largest-72. average-35-50.
Feel free to ask my bartender anything you want. That is how you should be.
He brings one backpack and one duffel bag-gym-bag size carry on with merch in it. Says he will leave the big one at my place. I am always paranoid about NOT having enough stuff so I tell him to bring it all, figuring he won't need it but he will have it.

We get to the spot EARLY. I say again-EARLY. Like 6'ish. (I have GOT to get a car-anyone got an extra one holla at me)
I take the time to get him a drink and some food. While it is not Baltimore level seafood, he seems pleased. (free food ALWAYS taste better ;] )
I go downstairs and set things up. Music, candles, incense, speakers, mic,etc.
Then blow all the candles out because it is too damn early and they will be liquid by the time the night starts. Duh.

We have talked for a minute but he is on the kick off of a multi-city tour and is doing something like 5 cities in four days or something to that effect. So he is on the phone setting things up. (his phone comes into play later)
I? I am bored out of my mind. So I write a little.
DJ Krate Digga shows up. He has offered me a solid on spinning vinyl for the first half of the show. Then he will pack up and go to work. Now THAT's a DJ!

So our doors open up at 7:45 with Krate spinning. The night kicks in at 8. What this means is you can come in, get your seats, hit the bathroom, call your friends and tell them where you will be tonite, order your food, get your drink, all that good stuff BEFORE the poetry kicks in.
I have made a rule that come hell or high water the night starts promptly at 8:30. It is working nice that way.

My door person is set (he is the bomb), my bartender is up and ready(she is a double bomb), my feature is in the house, only my vendor is late. (booo. Bad vendor. Just joking. She had a fund raiser to do first.)

problem? Only about 6 people in the house and it is 8:05. Argh!

So a few more minutes pass and Taalam is looking at me like, "Shit, ya got me. And I thought we was cool, man."

Then a few more minutes pass and I announce we will start in fifteen.

Some people come thru the door.


few more people.


few more.

I start the night out with what is now my customary countdown from ten seconds to zero. The room gets quiet as I the count draws to an end. By zero it is silent and I start a poem.
When I finish I go right into the greeting, info,plugs,etc.. While doing so I look up and think to myself, "There are quite a few people here".
I go to the one mic list.
Already 15 people signed up. go to one poem round robin.
End up with over 25 people signed up TO READ A POEM. geesh.
Let 20 read then bring up Taalam. Everyone has been pretty hot so far. Maybe it is the fact they know they have only one poem to read so leave it on the stage(hi Milwaukee).
Krate spins between each poet till Taalam comes up then breaks down. Perfect timing. He enjoyed himself enough to be willing to come and do it again. (which says ALOT for a DJ to want to come and hang out)
Taalam takes the stage. I get a rough head count. About 80 people there. Wow. He goes into his first piece. At the end of it the crowd simply goes WILD! I mean, handclaps, footstomps, amens, shake your ashes in the ashcan- wild.
He looks over to me and in a sort of wide eyed surprise, winks, as if to say, hey it filled up and they seem to like this so how about I keep going.
And he does.
I learned a lot just sitting and watching him perform. Good things to take note of with my gigs coming up in the morning.
Another GREAT feeling was the looks on the faces of the collective audience. Surprise. Awe. Happy. All that.
AND- to see a lot of the poets who have been so supportive in coming out and sharing their, now sitting down and listening and taking notes and getting inspired to go and write right there on the spot? Priceless. While I know there will be some imitators, that is to be initially expected, I look forward to hearing these cats in the weeks to come as each new feature forces them to look at poetry from a different angle outside of their own selves.

When he is done, I inform everyone that we might not get back to everyone in the round robin since there are now 25 people signed up to read and I want everyone to get a chance to read if they have signed up. (might have to institute a cut-off in the future)
Next I informthe crowd that it is now time for our regular and infamous "6 minutes".
It serves as an intermission to hit the bathroom, get more drinks, order food, support the vendor, and buy merch from the feature.
This cat still had a line from the stage to the door when the night kicked back in. Good thing we brought that other bag. ;)
The vendor did not get much love but with some cajoling from me and Taalam, people responded.
The open mic moved on in full force now with folks asking Taalam for an encore to close out the night.
Someone screams out "we need more chairs".
I have two people do a headcount.
One hundred and two people have come down here on a Tuesday night for poetry.
It sounds corny, and Andre Agassi just said it but, I did not win tonite, poetry did.
Over half of those people were new.
good mix of male/female/black/white/other.

One girl came up to me and apologized for not being dressed up. I was mad and ready to go and find whomever made her feel that way before she informed me that no one had, she just felt that way. I quickly showed her that I, the host, was wearing tattered jeans and slip on shoes and a t-shirt. I quickly said I don't give a shit HOW you dress but that you are HERE.
Once here, no matter who you are, you are family. That is how I run a night and how it should be done. Period.

To further make my point, I had everyone who had never been there before make it known by clapping their hands. Once that stopped I had all the regulars applaud them for coming out and joining us. The response was not only louder than what Taalam got (which is saying alot) but was louder than even I had hoped for. You come to Black Pearl, you are a guest only once. Then? You're family. So make yourself at home.

A few more announcements and we get to the encore. Taalam thought he was done. Therefore he had gotten quite intimate with the Scotch. Dry. Ahem.
Well, he was not as bad off as he thought and ripped it even better than his actual set, since in this one he was playing to the crowd to have fun moreso than do a set and earn your keep type thing. Feel me?

Another standing ovation and more cd sales and the night was done. Problem was, no one wanted to leave. I am breaking stuff down and everyone is sitting or standing around talking and laughing about the night. A really nice feeling that I hope carries over to next week and the feature then.

everything goes down without a hitch right up to the point we get to the car and Taalam drops his phone. It does not break, it shatters into so much wire. He has 300 numbers in it and some of them no where else. Ouch. Only has one number memorized. Ouch. Has to hit several cities before going home. Big OUCH.

I recall a sprint phone I had when on my first tour a couple of years ago. I got it so I could stay in touch with my wife (now ex) while on the road. I told him if I could find it he could have it. I go home and look and lo and behold I find it. I hit the power button and after about 2 years of non-use, it comes up with two bars on the phone! I figure it was meant to be and give it to him.

A great night for all.