The results are in: Red Devil patrons who had come to see the presidential debate and stayed for the open mic were clear winners! After an unconventional but intimate and effective (thank you, KC) lottery in the green room behind the stage as the debate finished up, the open mic started pretty much on time. And what a time it was!
Notable faces in the crowd: Aaron Whyte, Susan Heffelfinger, Michael Vincent, Tina Helland, expert sound man Dan Foldes, bartender supreme Josh Schiaretti, doorista David Polo, Brian David, Bahnmísta to the stars Jessica Nguyen.
New to the Red Devil stage: Distance, Leigh Rodgers, Jeff Turner, Allen-Michael Turner (it’s a Turner revolution, I tell you!), Vanessa Bates.
Two outstanding performances I want to mention: David Colón continues to cause eyes to lift and heads to turn when he starts singing and playing, delicious almost-jazz acoustic guitar (this guitar will be seen again later in the blog) and a clear, confident and utterly effortlessly captivating voice. This time around he gave us a hip-hoppy tune I was told was a cover of a Will Smith song, and he nailed it to the wall. Bill Fried got our attention with his first song, which I believe is “Anything Goes,” but it was his second song, his hit, as he called it, “I’m Sorry,” with its big, memorable, radio-worthy chorus, that truly broke through. Audience members actually remembered having heard him do it previously, which says a lot about it, and Bill’s clearly heartfelt performance earned the cheers it got.
Bill Fried (above)
Before the break: Nolte is committed to doing his thing, on his rap song called, uh, “Do My Thing,” which was a perfect way to transition the crowd from the presidential debate to the open mic. He followed with a second rap piece called “Let’em See Ya.” Peter Chung, fresh from his recent performance at the Great American Music Hall, for which we congratulate him big time, again delivered two polished, professional, attractive tunes. Salem was on nylon string guitar tonight, playing Spanish-inflected classical pieces with skill and sensitivity. Toy Yamaji covered U2’s “Running to Stand Still,” then did her poignant tune about an older friend who died, accompanied by Salem on violin(!) (I do not quite know how to include the fact that during this sensitive, bittersweet, personal song, a couple in the audience danced in front of the stage, if by “danced” I mean “attempted mutual sexual gratification of the kind usually reserved for private spaces.”) Mick Shaffer gave us a cover of “Fisherman’s Blues” by Waterboys, then hushed the audience with a strong and lively reading of a great song of his, “I’ll Take The Blame” (a phrase Mick said we would never hear from a politician!) Brent Shinn slowed the pace of his wonderful “Mother Nature,” and the lyrics really popped! He then played the second of the instrumentals he has written in honor of his cats, this one called “Pepper.” The audience heard and responded loudly and positively. Going into the break, Johnny Lawrie was again all young punk passion, attitude and radical tempo changes, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica.
The Sugar Ponies: Pony Time at the Red Devil is always a treat, and when the Sugar Ponies are the featured performers, three things are true: The crowd will be drawn to, and loudly supportive of, Suzanne’s sensuous and edgy rock, pop and country stylings, the band will be tight and professional, and the Ponies will be bringing up members of the community to play their hearts out with them. This was all in evidence on Tuesday night, when Suzanne Kramer, lead vocalist and Michael McGovern, principal guitarist, were joined first by Donovan Plant on the Danelectro electric lead, then Mick Shaffer on slide on his National Steel, then by Brent Shinn on the electric/acoustic Taylor T-5, and the guests all brought it. What was new was the growing confidence and skill of the already-solid group (which includes superior pros Peter Mrdjenovich on bass and Tim Vaughan on drums) and the easy and engaging interaction on stage between Suzanne and Michael. Michael was on fire in his instrumentals, driving covers like “With Care From Someone,” covers of friends, like Ryan Clark’s “Please Pull Over” and originals like “Lately” and the very popular “Blueberries.” Every song was met with the wild enthusiasm it so assuredly merited.
Sugar Ponies (above)
I should mention that Michael broke a guitar string during one song and called out to borrow a guitar, and David Colón answered immediately by lending his; we support each other. And that couple I mentioned danced throughout the Sugar Ponies’ set, only a tad more appropriately given the heat of Suzanne’s performance!
After the break: Jesse Montes defined right-hand technique again for us with his rasgueado strumming, his hand seeming to fly and dance (where by “dance,” I mean “dance.”) Mario Di Sandro, in keeping with the tone of the night, did a political sort of song, “You Say,” which was, according to Mario’s Facebook post, “dedicated to Mitt Romney’s lying corporate haircut,” and then, continuing a beautiful community tradition that started three weeks ago, gave up his second song so that David Colón could play one. MRD, also known as Peter Mrdjenovich, bass player of the Sugar Ponies, favored us with two folk pieces on acoustic guitar. The first had him playing harmonica as well, a political song that I suspect is called “Immaterial.” He was accompanied on the second by Mando Mike on guitar-shaped mandolin. Pam Bennett again went a cappella on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” making it her own and imbuing it with a fierce passion. Kara Goslin touched hearts with her clear, sweet voice and sterling guitar accompaniment on a new folk-style tune that must be called “Photographs Of You.” Addison Nimrod, with his friend Aaron again handling vocals, rocked the house much the way a nuclear device gently shakes things up, reprising last week’s new song, “Boilermaker.” And then the clock struck and I headed for the last train home.
Mario Di Sandro (above)
Performers I did not see: Vanessa Bates, Aldo Noboa, Grasstones. Please accept my apologies and I look forward to hearing you and writing about you in the future!
The fortunes of political parties and candidates may rise and fall, but the Red Devil Open Mic community remains a consistent force for connection, joy, good music and good times! We’ll see you next Tuesday!