"He's got to learn the names of chords, instead of just playing them at me and assuming that I'll be able to figure it out," I say at the IHOP.
"Yeah, but you always manage it. That's why he keeps doing it," says Belle.
It's been almost six months since I darkened the concrete stoop of Stacy's Coffee Shop for their open mike, and the event has evolved somewhat since then. An older man named John is running the show now, and he's a bit more organized, I guess. The old system was pretty much hit-or-miss, orchestrated through shouting back and forth with the barista. But in turn, most of the people that I used to see there are gone now--including almost all of the younger musicians. Have they been driven off? Did they go back to school? Like me, has work pulled them away? I don't know enough to say.
I end up on stage three times--once early on to waste some time, once with the white-boy bluesman who asked me to come (the same one I cut some basslines for a couple weeks ago), and last when the keyboardist finally shows up. There's an old joke: why was the keyboard player onstage with three bands in one night? Because it took the first two for him to set up! I am not sure that it's a joke anymore.
How does an open mike survive? It strikes me that they're like any organization. Some of them are strongarmed along by the charismatic and the insane, and without that person they fall apart. Others might be communal affairs, created and maintained by a fluid group. In both cases, the makeup changes, either through subtle selection ("This isn't really my kind of crowd") or the interpersonal equivalent of genetic drift. If I ever go back to school for a higher Communication degree, there's a paper in this.