My night at Eddie’s Attic Open Mic Songwriting CompetitionBy Don • Category: Inspiration, Live Music, Songwriting Articles, Songwriting Contests
Went to Eddie’s Attic last night for their Monday Night Open Mic Competition, along with fellow Asheville Singer-Songwriter Chris Jamison. It was a three-and-a-half hour drive from Asheville but well worth it. Got there around 5:30pm and checked in. Went for a quick dinner around the corner at Raging Burrito (highly recommended). Changed clothes. Walked inside and up the stairs where we were greeted by the Attic Staff.
Walking Into ‘The Attic’
What I like about Eddie’s Attic Open Mic is how they make musicians feel welcome. When I called to verify my spot on the show that night, the girl said, “Oh yeah, Don Mak. From Asheville, right?” Even though she didn’t know me from anyone I felt incredibly welcome and appreciated. When we arrived to check in, pay the $3 fee we were greeted by a friendly guy at the door. He treated us in the same manner.
As we finished up the entry details he pointed at a closed door behind him, “The music is in there. Head in and towards the back right and place your instruments there. Check in with Eddie and he’ll let you know what number you play.”
Didn’t really know what to expect, but I walked in and they were doing some final tweaks before the show. I angled towards the area I was told, and sure enough there was Eddie. He made direct eye contact with me, smiled and introduced himself. I said hello and introduced myself and he expressed how happy he was to have us there.
The audience in general was very respectful. It appeared most of the regulars were acutely aware of the listening room environment. Eddie mentioned it a couple times in a non-threatening manner and reminded everyone they are totally free to talk and be loud while he was talking, and while acts were setting up, but there is a patio out front where people can be loud as they want. Around the listening room are a couple of signs reminding people of the policy for audience members. There was only the occasional “Shushing” by crowd members.
In general, it seemed everyone knew why they were there – to listen to great original music.
Here’s how it works. Everyone who signed up gets to play. The list fills up months in advance so if you want to play Eddie’s Attic you need to call in and sign up now for playing in May or June at the earliest. Even then you have to call in on the day of the show to confirm your spot or you lose it to one of the numerous players on “standby”.
You get two songs in the first round. Once everyone has played their two songs the judges pick three finalists who then each get one more song. The winner of that round wins the prize ($60)and advances to the $1000 finals down the road – apparently held twice per year.
I ended up being number three on the list. That’s not good. With 4 more hours of live music after me, playing third can be a death knell for the “competition” part of it. No worries. I took it in stride and just tried to enjoy myself on stage. I have been in songwriting competitions before, and I always tell myself it’s just an Open Mic “with benefits”. If I win – great! But regardless I am going to bring my best.
The first song I played was called Overwhelming Evidence which is very up tempo. It wasn’t my best performance of that song, but after that I played Good As Gold (a demo of it is on my web site) and by then I could tell the audience was starting to really listen. I also began to settle down a bit. The room got quiet, everyone was listening intently, and I could sense that great electric vibe that most performers love to feel – where you begin to connect with the listeners.
Unfortunately at that point I had to exit the stage. I wish I could have stayed longer. It’s a shame to just get the audience on your side and then it’s done.
(For Eddie’s Attic though, I understand the logistical reasons why.)
After I completed my set I packed my guitar up and talked to a few other performers and exchanged emails, MySpace and websites, and sat down with a beer. Now it was time to listen to the friendly “competition”.
I am someone who can suffer through several consecutive acts of mediocrity with ease in order to wait for that one great “gem” performer to walk on stage. But after four hours of live acoustic music – despite the wealth of talent – even I was begin to suffer “listener fatigue”. Acts began to run together in my head. At some points I even felt tired and was hoping I wouldn’t make the finals so I could leave early.
Through it all however, Eddie seemed like he was having a great time. He does this EVERY WEEK? Is he ALWAYS this upbeat? Even when we were reaching the last handful of acts and the entire show was running about 45 minutes behind, he seemed pleasantly happy to still be there.
The sound guy (I didn’t get is name so I’ll just call him “Sound Guy”) worked well with Eddie. They joked back and forth and even during the occasional technical difficulties there was no stress. No bad vibes. It got fixed, they laughed, thanked each other profusely, and moved on.
Eddie and his crew works quickly. I missed his opening remarks, so I wasn’t sure who the judges were, or if maybe he and “Sound Guy” were judges. Not sure. But it moved fast. Within seconds of the final performer finishing his first round of songs, he had announced the first up for the final round and the guy was on stage in a few seconds playing. By the time the final “finalist” played, the winner of the whole night was announced before they could even walk off the stage.
Even when performers aren’t playing the kind of music I like, I still respect what they do. Yet, with all the positivity and respect given by Eddie to the performers some still seemed to take advantage of his generosity by playing songs that were WAYYYYY too long, which put the rest of the show behind. I watched Eddie during some of these moments, expecting to see some visible frustration. There was none. He seemed to be accepting of the fact as a necessary evil of running an event that allows anyone to perform.
There were definitely some stunners on stage. Some of the duos and trios that played collectively emanated an energy that gave goosebumps at times. There were a few not-so-stellar performances as well. I didn’t think they were bad. Not at all. I think they were often people still finding their voice. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think it is great they have Eddie’s Attic as a place to find it.
While I was impressed with the duos and trios, my preference (and I’m only stating my preference) is for the solo singer songwriter. Some of the trios that played demonstrated such virtuosity on their respective instruments it was amazing. But that is not why I was there. I wanted to hear the solo guy/girl with his/her song stripped down to its essence. I have this romantic concept of a “musician and their song against the world”. It’s almost like the added instrumentation and extras detract from the substance of the song. (Some would argue the instruments enhance the song, and I understand that argument too.) They were good. None of the trios or duos sucked at all.
It’s a Wrap.
No, I didn’t win. One of the duos won. They were really good too, with great energy. In fact there were numerous worthy songwriters that didn’t make it to the final round – a consequence of having such a diverse wealth of talent in one room. There was an 18-year old kid from Greenville, SC that blew me away. He had that Bright Eyes -meets-Bruce Springsteen kinda mix. His songs were deep and earnest, but his between-song banter was funny, lighthearted, and positive. I wish I would have got his name.
As I picked up my guitars from the storage area and started walking out, Eddie was there. I walked by, he stuck out his hand and very sincerely said, “Thank you so much for coming out. You sounded great. Keep it up.”
He said it in a way that sounded so sincere, genuine.
Although I am sure he said it to every performer that night – I felt like he really meant it.
And I believed him.
Monday Night Open Mic Information
All sign up information, rules, and details can be found on the Eddie’s Attic Artist’s page, as well as directions to the venue.