Every third Saturday, I host a show at Terra Cafe. If you’re like me, you got your start on the stage. If you’re really like me, you “cut your teeth” at Baltimore’s best open mics. I can’t possibly name all of them. Every night of the week, if you’re like me, you know there’s a place somewhere in this city where you can go and make some money, if you have a CD to sell. You’ll pay a cover and break even or better. You sell a couple EPs. There are even long term gains to be made if the host likes you and you get asked to feature. If you’re like me, you’ll leave your house and head to an open mic several nights a week. You love the random musicians who stop at the venue with their saxophone or trumpet, their djembes and cajons, their poetry and songs. Every night, there is an open mic for you to frequent or not, because you found a new spot, or until the well runs dry. This is a beautiful city for an artist to make a living.
If you’re not like me, you still have access to the same open mics. You know that you can go out any night of the week and see a live poetry or music event. You love supporting the local scene and you know you only scratch the surface with the 10 awesome performances you’re going to see, the engaging hosts, the poetry, the musicians. You wonder what some of these artists would do with a full night of their own show. Those are the albums you buy. You come to these events, regularly, for a seat in your favorite chair, at your favorite table. Even the venues have their own signature food and ambiance. Some nights, you might sign the list, but most nights, you just want to go and enjoy the artscape. This is Baltimore.
I made a personal vow to myself that no matter how much success I obtain on the stage, I never want to forget what it’s like to be a person in the chair listening to the performance. I don’t ever want to forget what it’s like to be at home, looking for something to do, on any evening. The artists that I love, I follow them everywhere, solo or with a band, as an open mic participant or as a feature. Every performance is different, and all are awe inspiring.
Nowadays, it’s hard for me to go to an open mic and listen again. I am constantly inspired but some seasons, I put my energy into teaching and creativity vs. songwriting and composing. These are the seasons when I most crave the listening. Sometimes, I want to open my ears and take it all in, like it was my first time in the venue, like no one knows my stage name or that I sing, like I don’t have a CD to sell, or a show to promote. It is easy to get lost in a city so saturated with talent. I find myself grappling with my inner artist and my external fan. Why not take both perspectives and add another hat to my collection and throw it in the ring? Now, as a promoter for my own show, I ask myself, “Why in the world, with so many options on any given night of the week, would you want to come to my event?” I answer.
This is not an open mic or a jam session, but a singer/songwriter/musician/poet, original artist’s showcase. Everyone is invited to sit at our table, but for one night a month, I want to honor our features, close the mic, and get to know these folks beyond the handful of pieces we’ve heard on the open mic lists. At my event, we sit family style. Sometimes, we color and I invite folks to share crayons and creativity. I invite 2 other performers to feature and we put on a dope show! My event is BYOB. Listeners pay a $5 cover for 3 awesome original artists. $10 affords complimentary wine. Some months, we have prepared a full night of collaborations, covers and originals, complete with surprise guests. Other nights, I’ve split the time between myself and other acoustic singer/songwriters. I purposefully change the rotation of features because I want to “keep it fresh” and bring a new show and a new crowd, every month. I also want folks to come back. Every third Saturday, I host a show at Terra Cafe (101 E 25th St). This is QueenEarth & Friends. This is the promoter, the fan, and the performer speaking. As far as I can see, I’m getting points for innovation.