As I explained before, I’ve been trying to learn to play guitar for many years – it shouldn’t have to be that difficult, but I am that lazy – and this year I found myself being welcomed into a group of people who love jamming together, and going to Bluegrass festivals together. Most of these people are well used to playing to an audience – and they often play more than just one instrument – and some of them even have bands and albums. I, on the other hand, hadn’t stepped on a stage since high-school, and even then, it was school theatre who had put me in there, and not music.
Hostel Room Rotterdam hosts open-mic nights once a month, and both my boyfriend and another friend had played there a couple of times so, somehow, in conversation, we all ended up agreeing to go to an open-mic night together.
Two of my friends who had agreed to attend the open-mic got to work immediately; according to her telling, and to the photos she sent me, her house quickly became a music-bootcamp scenario: mics, amps, shaker, guitars, drums, you name it. Me and Jorri – the boyfriend – had agreed to sing two songs together, with him playing the guitar, and that I would then sing and play a song all by myself.
Up until the last day, I was still unsure as to which song I would play alone: Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, by Bob Dylan, or Maybe It’s Time, by The Milk Carton Kids? I, at least, got a bit panicky when, a day before the open-mic, my friend sent me a video of their in-house performance and it looked like they had prepared for Eurovision, while Jorri and I had sung the songs… two or three times? And without actually practicing them for the show, but more because we enjoyed singing those songs together. Well, it was an open-mic, not The Voice, so I wasn’t really nervous about it, not until I got to the stage.
The venue was pretty welcoming; the hostel hosts the open-mics on a stage by a very cosy common room, with the bar at the far end. Since we all had to sign up online for the open-mic, it wasn’t yet decided who was going to go first, so they made a sort of a raffle for it. Jorri and I would be the seven act; each of the acts had 15 minutes on stage, so there was still a little to go before our turn.
It was nice to see that there was a prominence of singer/songwriters who had brought their own songs on stage. Most of them did a pretty good job, and the audience was polite enough to keep quiet, and enthusiastic enough to appreciate and respect what everyone was doing.
In the end, I sang and played Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, but I mixed the lyrics from the second and third verse and I had to end it with one less verse sung. It was not bad, though, I was able to mask it well enough that I doubt anyone who didn’t know the lyrics by heart would notice. Then, Jorri and I sang Boots Of Spanish Leather, also by Dylan but from a cover by Mandolin Orange, and The Blackest Crow, a Bluegrass song made most famous by Tim O’Brien. It went better than expected, and although I was a bit nervous while on stage, it was great fun.
To top it up, we loved watching our friends singing there as well, everyone had a fantastic time. The food the hostel serves is also good, and we were offered free shots – I’m not a drinker, but hey! really nice of them!
We’re skipping this month’s open-mic, which takes place on Friday, 28th of September, but if you want to experience it first hand, you can sign up via the hostel’s page. It’s a great place to start if you are trying to get some stage confidence, because the staff is very friendly and they will help tame the crowd to make it all a smooth experience. We are definitely going back there really soon.