Last night, my rock-n-roll power trio, GUPPY EFFECT, hosted a meet-n-greet at the University of Wisconsin's Union Terrace in Madison WI. That sounds very intellectual and academic and maybe even pre-planned, but it was a rather impromptu affair. In fact, we were actually there to throw our name in the ring to perform at the weekly Wednesday open mic night that's hosted there.
The Union Terrace is a large terraced (hence the name) patio full of tables and chairs that lies on the shore of Lake Mendota behind the student union of the university. They serve beer and food, and there is a lakefront stage with full sound and lights that offers frequent entertainment. So it's a popular hangout during the summertime, because it's scenic, entertaining, and there's beer. It is this popularity that makes it a compelling venue for amateur performers to come flaunt their talents in front of a fairly substantial audience (hundreds of people on a good night). Normally, it would be beneath us to perform an open mic, but most open mics are weak sauce by comparison to the Terrace open mic (I can say that because I am an occasional host of open mics and have some knowledge to back it up).
The Terrace open mic is so compelling, in fact, that many more performers show up than can possibly have their 15 minutes of fame in the time allotted (8 to 11 PM). So potential performers submit their names to be drawn quasi-randomly in a sort of lottery system. Stefan and I were not selected last week when we attended as a duo, so we tried again this week. Since there is a significant probability of not getting picked, we decided to make the open mic performance itself secondary to the meet-n-greet Q&A social on the terrace with our band. I made a Facebook event for it and invited a bunch of people I thought might want to get to know us better. Performing the open mic would be gravy if we got picked, and we might have a few people there to cheer for us as well. We'd still have a good time drinking beer and hanging out if we didn't make the cut.
It was touch and go during the selection process as name after name was drawn and none of them was us. Just before the final selection was drawn, I crossed my fingers and my drummer Verge and I shared a look of hope.
"Cactus Joe and Fiends," open mic host Frankie called. We had secured the final slot for the night and would go on last, about 10:45 PM, give or take 10 minutes, depending on the adherence of other performers to the time limits and the amount of time needed to transition between acts. Clearly, crossing your fingers for good luck really does work.
"Yes!" I exclaimed, firing a couple of goat hand signs into the dusky twilight. "We're the headliners! WE'RE THE HEADLINERS!"
Of course, our time slot was really no more or less impactful than any other, but it was fun to pretend that we were the headlining act since we were finishing out the night. Indeed, it being a school night, the crowd had thinned out fairly substantially by the time we went on, around 10:50. No one showed up for our meet and greet either, which is totally fine, since it means people already know most everything there is to know about GUPPY EFFECT (that we rock!). Notwithstanding the lackluster showing by friends, fans, and strangers alike, we rocked out three facemelting original songs semi-acoustically and with "thrice the rocking power of other name bands" (our minimum guarantee), inserting a couple of shameless promotions about upcoming shows in between.
After we got done, open mic host Frankie came up to us.
"You guys were tight!" he exclaimed. "I really dug it." His enthusiasm seemed genuine.
A pretty girl also approached us. "I really liked your guys' set," she said. "Do you have a CD or something?"
"We have tee shirts," I replied. That was true. Our new batch of shirts had come in the day before. That didn't interest her, so I said, "You can download MP3s for free off our web site," and gave her the web address. I am pretty sure that's true, though I should probably check.
Lastly, an older gent of the hard rock persuasion, named Adrian, who had performed earlier in the night and had good vocal pipes, came up to praise us and we chatted a bit about a few things, including how lame Christian rock usually is. He said he was an old school hard rocker of Zeppelin/ACDC/Sabbath school and he had the pipes for it.
"We should totally collaborate here some Wednesday," I said. "Maybe you can sing some hard rock covers with us." He seemed enthused about this and contact info was shared.
All told it was a great night. We'll probably try to do it two or three times a month so we can expose ourselves to a large audience and get our name out...maybe shamelessly plug some upcoming gigs so that those in the audience who do like us can come see a full show.