So it’s been over a year since I last performed my words in front of people. I must admit I’ve been incredibly intimidated about performing in NYC – this city is the Mecca of poetry/spoken word! Before even attempting The Bowery or Nuyorican Café, I wanted to check out lesser known places. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with going to the deep end, in fact recently I’ve been to the deep end plenty of times, but for this, I wanted to linger in the shallow end. Unfortunately my lazy ass didn’t even touch the water since moving here.
A year ago I found an open mic night on meetup.com. The ad seemed interesting – it boasted all kinds of acts, DJ’s, featured performers, and it was free. I’ve been eyeing it for a year and finally today, I went to it. Held in a dance studio in Hell’s Kitchen, I could already tell the room was filled with eccentric people just by stepping into the room.
At the start, the emcee, a middle-aged woman, declared she’s not a quiet bird but a Phoenix rising from the flames. Her widened eyes stared right at me as she said that, and I didn’t know if I should’ve taken it as inspiration or a threat. She performed twice, and every time someone was standing or whispering, she became passive aggressive with them, calling them “dear” or “honey” yet the tone in her voice was a bit threatening (yet I noticed she didn’t do the same for other performers). Her second performance consisted of a dance routine and at one point she attempted to give a lap dance to one of the fellas in the front row (who I think had a crush on her).
A woman in the front row kept farting. I wasn’t sure at first but after the fifth time I saw her sway to one side in her chair.
An older man lacking teeth performed as well. But it wasn’t the poems and songs that were memorable but how he introduced each one. There was one where he nonchalantly described one of his poems as something he wrote while he was staying at a mental hospital. Then there was another love poem dedicated to a friend of 35 years but he didn’t write it because he was in love with him but it was a poem about their 35 year friendship and how he was admired the guy (talk about in denial). He was hilarious though – his dirty jokes won me over especially this one:
“Little Red Riding Hood was getting ready to visit her grandma but her mom said, you can’t head out to the woods because the big bad wolf will find and eat you. Nevertheless she ventured off to the woods. Sure enough the big bad wolf did find her – she was wearing her red hooded coat, red bra, and red panties, and the big bad wolf cried, ‘Rawr! I’m going to fuck you!’ Little Red Riding Hood took out her gun, pointed it at him, and replied, ‘Oh, no you’re not. You’re going to do what the story says – you’re going to eat me.’”
An oversized middle-aged couple performed an interpretation piece to the song of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue.” The woman was a statue, the Goddess Venus to be exact, and the man played a man admiring this statue. I understood why she was naked, she was a statue, duh, but I didn’t understand why he was. At first the statue was immobile, but halfway through the song both were dancing, and at times, fighting. I’m all for obscure performance acts filled with metaphors but I had no clue what they were trying to express.
An incredibly skinny and tall woman was next. She introduced herself as an aspiring singer who used to dance with all sorts of dance companies. She busted out songs by Diana Ross, Adele, and Amy Winehouse, and sadly, it was bad. I mean, BAD. I’m talking nails on chalkboard bad. I have no idea why I even endured it but I guess a small part of me wanted her to improve or at least admit she was fucking with us and start singing like Beyonce. Unfortunately this was not the case, and after the fourth song I wished Simon Cowell would come out and chastise her. At this point the regulars were dancing as she sang along. There’s one thing about encouragement but in reality, I think it’s in her best interest for someone to tell her how horrible her voice is. Good thing the room was soundproof because honestly that would be the only place where she would be allowed to sing.
I finally made my way out after a shy duo attempted some sort of Pink Floyd-like jam session. The only word they would mutter was “Sorry” every time they messed up. I could tell the audience got bored after a few minutes. I mean, they were jumping around and dancing to “It’s Raining Men” a few minutes ago.
With “Scar Tissue” stuck in my head, I left the building chuckling at this bizarre experience.