By Joe Laking
I have been in a band, Eli, for just over a year now, maybe a little longer. We recorded some music almost six months ago but we had not yet played live. At all.
All that changed on Valentine’s Day this year when we poked our collective head into the Ritzy Platform Open Mic Night, hosted by the veritable Richard Purnell (@richardpurnell). We were early and came with far too many instruments (more than we actually played in the end), but Richard was accommodating, if a little frenetic. He grimaced as we listed all those instruments but the sound man quickly had us sorted and we were duly informed that we would be on after the mid-show break.
Already the upstairs bar at the Ritzy was filling up and, as far as we could see, only performers had turned up. By the time the first brave soul stepped into the light it was standing room only. The blurb on the Ritzy website suggested that the evening would be a varied one and we were not disappointed. There were musicians galore, from the smoothest of slow jams by AW to heart stopping song craft from Amy Grace. However, what I fell in love with this night for was the variety on offer. We had a rendition of someone’s first ever poem, beatboxing/singing/general joy from Faisal (if you can tell him what he does, he’d be most obliged), stand-up comedy and one of the best spoken word artists I’ve seen, Errol McGlashan.
And then, in the space of a week I had played twice. Faisal had been to the Electric Social’s weekly open mic night and said it was well worth a look in. Having enjoyed the Ritzy so much, and mindful of the fact that we were losing a band member for a couple weeks (off to Morocco, alright for some), we decided to head down the following week. Once again, I was early and once again the compere was welcoming, if slightly less manic than Richard. I was early enough that I could make the most of an amazing mac ’n’ cheese, though this was an indulgence I slightly regretted as the nerves kicked in.
The open mic night at the Electric Social was much more geared towards bands and musicians. Our wonderful compere-come-soundman didn’t blink when I asked whether we would be OK with a cajon. In fact our cajon wasn’t the only one of the evening. The space was beautiful and I got to feel like I was standing at a pulpit as we played on the raised balcony. However, it was a Wednesday and that meant that the larger room in the Social was not packed out. Each band or singer had bought a group of people along and I was thoroughly grateful for my friends who turned up and put up with my whining about my nerves. The roomier set-up allowed for larger bands to turn up and I enjoyed catching some lovely pedal steel from Chasing the White Dog, but some of the intimacy of the Ritzy night was lost. That said, I will certainly return to the Electric Social as a customer and performer (if they’ll have us again).