By Malcolm Culleton
Our season is now two weeks old, and last Saturday night we had the first of our monthly open stages. I’ve seen a lot of Postcrypt shows over the past three years, and open stage nights have always been my personal favorites. Both as a twentysomething with a guitar-playing hobby and as a teenager with delusions of musical grandeur, I’ve hung around at enough open mics to know that not all of them are worth the trouble of signing up. Often the music is generic and not terribly imaginative. Sometimes a specific social or political dynamic overshadows the quality of the performances (specifically, I once had the shock of stumbling into what seemed to be a meeting of Toronto’s communist party). Occasionally the other musicians are standoffish or unfriendly and/or leave right after they’ve had their ten minutes on the stage. And who can forget those awful events from high school that featured some kid’s Screamo band flailing around for thirty minutes because they couldn’t–or wouldn’t–listen to demands to turn the damn amps down and get off the stage?
A good way to save yourself from all of these unpleasant experiences is to come to a Postcrypt open stage. As you might expect in such a small, intimate space, the shows are characterized by a strong sense that we are all part of a musical community. In fact, to a large extent we are–many of the same musicians have played at Postcrypt Open Stages month after month, in some cases for many years. For these folks, Postcrypt is a place to showcase new songs, listen to what other musicians are doing, mingle in the hallway, and form friendships.
Performances run a full gamut of acoustic music, from jazz to blues to hip hop to country to old standards such as protest songs, sing-along tunes, and Bob Dylan covers. Occasionally we even get poets or stand up comics. But whatever you choose to present at a Postcrypt Open Stage, you’ll be guaranteed an audience that is not only willing to listen but is enthusiastic and eager to be involved in whatever it is you’re doing. The shows are free and informal. They are almost like musicians’ workshops, where everyone participates by listening thoughtfully to every word, chord, and tune that fills the room.
And if the October Open Stage was any indication, the good things will just keep right on coming in 2010-2011. I first stopped by around 7:15 to find the usual group of performers huddled around the sign-up sheet (when it comes to guaranteeing yourself stage time, you can’t come too early), as well as a fair number of new faces. In spite of their dissatisfaction with some of our latest “changes” (mostly the ones that we’re all dissatisfied with as well), they were willing to hang out for over an hour before the show started in order not to miss out on one of the chairs that comprise the ‘Crypt’s maximum capacity. And what a show it was–colored by harmonicas, delta blues, ukuleles, percussive guitar, and even a couple of Latin American folksongs. And when we got through the set lineup early–around 11:10, the ‘Crypt was treated to twenty minutes of duets, covers, and impromptu performances.
After the show had ended, I spent a few minutes chatting with a local singer-songwriter who was visiting Poscrypt for the first time. “I’ve been to a lot of open mikes in New York,” he told me, “but this one really blew them all out of the water.” It seems that many others agree–Postcrypt consistently makes top-ten lists for NYC Open mics, and has been ranked as high as #2. .
But why take my word for it? Stop by on the first Saturday in November and check it out for yourself!