One of my favorite things is checking out new open mics. The lure of the different location, the performers I’ve never heard before, and testing the waters of whether or not they’ll dig what I’m coming up with. About a week ago I heard about a new one (new to me anyway) Catweazle at A Gathering of The Tribes….if that’s not an intriguing, enticing title then I don’t know what is! It’s got everything, strange animals, mythic, ancient, ritualistic good vibes and mystery. And yet when I got down to East 3rd Street between Avenues C and D I saw an apartment building. I had apparently become so accustomed to playing in bar, club, even restaurant situations that this apartment building had me a little freaked out. I called my friend, the excellent songstress Kelli King, to ask whether if she knew if this was the spot….she wasn’t there so I left a bewildered message. Then a guy with a bag full of take-out Chinese food and another guy with a guitar came up to the stoop and were both heading to A Gathering of The Tribes. Steve Cannon, the owner of the apartment, greeted us at the door. He is a thin, older gentleman, and blind due to glaucoma. Creaky wooden stairs led up to the second floor. The guitarist had been to this open mic before so I kind of tagged along to suss out the situation. The first guy was bringing food to Steve. There was nothing on the floors, the place smelled of stale smoke (which hearkened me back to my dearly departed smoking days) nothing on the walls of the room with the black couch where Steve was seated before a low coffee table. There was a piano, a sculpture of some sort and paintings on the walls of the room near the front of the building and warped floors and shelves upon shelves of books in the back room with a little metal balcony and outer stairs which led down to the courtyard where we would be performing. The radio was on pretty loud….I think it was WBAI or NPR, some intellectual-sounding station. I felt that this was a very special person in a special place. A former professor, poet, playwright, had opened his house (which he’s been in since the 70’s) to virtual strangers (artists but strangers nonetheless). Generosity of spirit is a rare thing. Steve is a not one to suffer fools and bullshit. When I told him of my sisters’, Alessandra Lynch, books of poetry (Sails The Wind Left Behind and It Was A Terrible Cloud at Twilight) he asked that I write down the title of the most recent work and he’d get it and write a response (he has folks who read to him) ….jokingly he said he’d probably say, keep trying. So I gathered that the space, Steve’s place is called A Gathering of Tribes and the open mic is called Catweazle. Catweazle was started by Lauraly Grossman but the eternally busy songwriter Joe Yoga (http://www.mrjoeyoga.com/) was hosting the one I attended. We hauled metal folding chairs down to the courtyard through the thick ivy clinging to the building, found the appropriate plugs and extension chords for the outdoor lights, set up a cooler of cheapo beer on ice, set out the sign up sheet and got to it. I met Joe at Sidewalk Cafe a while back and there were many familiar faces from various open mics on the roster in addition to the folks I count as regulars in my crowd, Jim Petrie, Walter Ego, Mel Foop, and Debbie Kuhn. We had a great time. I heard some exceptional performers who I hope to hear again, even a couple of comedians. Steve stayed up in the house while we played. It’s a special place, you oughta check it out! Have a great week! Here’s what’s up next there:
285 East 3rd Street Between Avenues C and D 2nd floor.
Friday June 14th, 2013 8:00, $5 cover, cheap beer available for donations or BYOB.
PS: Buy my sisters books, they are amazing!!! Sails The Wind Left Behind and It Was A Terrible Cloud at Twilight (both on Amazon)
The great listens this week: The Ex and Brass Unbound (Enormous Door) and Oblivians (Desperation) reviews on Dusted, http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/
Catweazle is my favorite place in the world. Never doubt that magic will happen there…it always does.
Hey Philip, just so you know, Catweazle was started by Cal Folger Day and Chris Faroe in 2010 (or 9?) and ran until summer of 2012, when it started losing steam. Jim Flynn revived it in 2013, and has now handed it to Lauraly.
Cal and Chris both attended Oxford, and played at the original, and still running, Catweazle there, which is where they got the inspiration to start one here.
There was a London Catweazle for a while, but I think it has died.
I resisted going to Catweazle when I was first invited because I had a very bucolic image in my head, but when I finally went I found a totally debauched bacchanal, and fell in love (literally). It used to go on until 2 or 3 in the morning, and the clouds of weed smoke were so thick you could barely see through the crowds. After the performances, it would turn into a dance party/jam, but eventually the neighbors complained, and the cops were called…
BONUS (an excellent Ray Brown track, thanks Ray!) http://raybrown.bandcamp.com/track/goodbye-catweazle-2
Steve’s place reminds me of the fabulous Gist Street Reading Series in Pittsburgh—a sculptor kindly lends his space for monthly poetry readings–they’re always well-attended by attentive people, and the poems float out and curl around enormous wood and metal sculptures and paintings and whatnots while beer bottles snooze in a clawfoot bathtub, and homemade bread intermittently lets out its warm sighs from a counter in the corner.
Thanks for the plug, beloved brother Philip. Also, I appreciate Steve’s oft-uttered comment “keep trying.” I always do! In the immortal words of Wallace Stevens: “It is necessary to any originality to have the courage to be an amateur.”