At the Open Mic

February 8, 2007 8:00 AM

A rough structural demo of one of the songs I've written this month. Catchy, upbeat reflection on the simpler, softer times of my highschool musical upbringing. Imagine this with a dozen people clapping and singing along. And maybe an awesome guitar solo. I've still got three weeks, after all.

posted by cortex (35 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

I've been writing writing writing all week for the RPM '07 stunt, and so I've got about a dozen songs in various stages of readiness, from solid-enough-to-demo down to vague-shapeless-notion. But that's been on paper and on paper only.

So I sat down and recorded guitar and vocals for six songs last night, and this is one of them. Because I've been so centered on note-taking and lyrics and theoretical harmonizations, I haven't really played or sung most of the songs enough to be comfortable performing them, so last night was sort of an ice-breaker session for me to get comfortable with my own material.

I haven't historically recorded reference demos—generally, the first time I try to record a song, that's the only recording of the song I end up with—so this is an interesting change for me. I've got most of the framework here; lyrically, I'm pretty much there, though there are lines that may get tweaked. The nothing-but-guitar section in the middle is an attempt to get myself thinking about the arrangement, what sort of space I can use, what might fill the space between the first half and second half of the song.

And the clapping. Man, I can't wait to get a bunch of people together to clap along to that.
posted by cortex at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2007

I've linked a few more demos on my blog, as well.
posted by cortex at 8:23 AM on February 8, 2007

Greatness. The guitar solo should be a drunken affair in which you go for squeals and feedback rather than perfect notes. That's what I'm thinking at 8:30 AM anyway.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:27 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

hey, that's nice.
wow, you have, like, whole songs with lyrics and everything.
I've got 5 two-minute sketches with me going "blah-de-blah" where lyrics should be.

I'm equal parts impressed and terrified.
posted by chococat at 8:51 AM on February 8, 2007

I tend to write songs-with-lyrics first. It's the part where I turn that into a real recording that doesn't just sound like a dude with an acoustic guitar that tends to give me the terror.

Also, you should hear some of the stuff sleepy pete has laid down. (Actually, seriously, dude, post that track 5 thing. The one with the dragging footsteps.)

Also, chococat, you should really hook us up too.

posted by cortex at 9:01 AM on February 8, 2007

Two versions to my reaction, the "diplomatic approach": Wow, charming song, cortex, it's really cool.

Now, the "honest approach" is: oh, back off, cortex, this is not a "first version rough sketch" This is the umpteenth version after you rewrote the lyrics and finally decided to incorporate claps. You've been recording this song over and over again for a year. Admit it. Or rather, Lie to me.

damn, I'm envious.
posted by micayetoca at 9:37 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. Wow! Fighting the urge to pack up my guitar, scratch my name off the list, and quietly duck out of this big 'ol open mike.

No, really, great job - strong idea that a lot of people will enjoy.

If you wanted to do it up all crazy and cinematic-lilke, after getting a lot of sloppy handclaps down, some clinky-glass bar sounds and house chatter would really round out the scene...
posted by Miko at 10:46 AM on February 8, 2007

One thing I've been considering is, rather than a guitar solo, having a Terrible Open Mic Poetry solo. Sort of riff on Weezer's The Sweater Song aesthetic.

I have an in-joke with a buddy of mine from back in my high school open mic days (incidentally the same guy whose marraige spawned the Waltz #2 tribute-fest last year). We were at Cafe Lena on Hawthorne, our weekly hang (which exists no longer), and some dude got up at the mic and explained that his next poem was called "Brown Shower." We started giggling right about then.

And in the recitation, toward the end, he uttered the titular line, with great drama and luxury:


It was stunning. I have a lot of good memories of the Cafe Lena open mic, and it though it wasn't a very challenging critical environment (the clash between self-aware creative growth and nicey-nicey supportiveness is hardly lost on me), it was a wonderful way to learn to stand up in front of people and lay shit out.

You've been recording this song over and over again for a year.

Well, I've been recording it in my head for about two days straight. Preparation in the old head; half sick of it by the time I sit down to record.
posted by cortex at 11:01 AM on February 8, 2007

A bit off topic, but in Lawrence they used to have open mic poetry nights at a local bar. One of the "poems" I remember is a guy with two mics, one with lots of reverb and the other clear, alternatively speaking (into the clear) and shouting (into the reverb) the word "fear". Hoo boy. They later moved the open mic night to one of the local strip clubs. It could be going on at The Dirty Bird still. Yeah, former home of William Burroughs and all that...
posted by sleepy pete at 11:18 AM on February 8, 2007

Man, I am going to purposefully misremember that anecdote as being about you seeing Bill Burroughs give that two-mic performance. Because that will make a hell of a story at the bar.
posted by cortex at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2007

Only if you end it, "And then he started shooting at him while screaming, 'Two bucks. Same as in town.'"
posted by sleepy pete at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2007

Took the apple clean off dude's head, too.
posted by cortex at 11:59 AM on February 8, 2007

Speechless here. You crank 'em out like crazy and you're always good. Kudos brudda!
posted by snsranch at 4:00 PM on February 8, 2007

Fantastic demo here. Be sure to post the final mix when all is said and done. If you do, Everybody claps.
posted by ageispolis at 4:07 PM on February 8, 2007

Heh heh! Funny song, 'tex! And I can't help comparing an "open mic" night to MeFi Music... kinda the same, right? "Ignore the things that bore you, applaud the things you like..." "...nobody boos..."

Nice little number!

And, man, I reckon I oughtta post one of the tunes I've put together for RPM here at MeFiMu pretty soon. Starting to look like a shirker or something...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:47 PM on February 8, 2007

This is fucking awesome.
posted by mathowie at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2007

That, Matt, is going on the press blurb page when I finish the album.
posted by cortex at 11:22 AM on February 9, 2007

yeah dude, this is just super, duper rad. i love it.
posted by freudianslipper at 1:09 PM on February 9, 2007

Love it. Reminds me in the best possible way of Jonathan Richman.
posted by christophernaze at 7:50 PM on February 11, 2007

Noone will object if you sing about the girl that broke your heart

That is true poetry.

[suggestion] Regarding the middle... do you have a dobro?
posted by Ynoxas at 9:17 PM on February 11, 2007

I have no dobro, alas. Some day! Some day.
posted by cortex at 6:13 AM on February 12, 2007

I did a 'clapping' recording session for a friend of mine once. We were recording surround sound projects and his idea was to record a cheesy blues song and have a group of us clap along with the clapping in the rear speakers so that when the song was played in public the audience would feel the urge to clap along to the song.

(The idea came from a lecture on live sound where our lecturer told us that he sometimes used to put a mic on the audience and up the crowd sounds to artificially generate an atmosphere it was kind of lacking on a given night!)

Anyways my point is that getting a group in just to clap along to your track is a helluva lot of fun!
posted by TwoWordReview at 12:18 PM on February 12, 2007

Cortex - awesome. As soon as I can figure out this whole "Atlantic Ocean" deal, I'm coming to wherever the hell it is you live and we're gonna make out jam, man.
posted by Jofus at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2007

I'll be sure to put on something naughty new strings, baby.
posted by cortex at 10:13 AM on February 13, 2007

I dig the Bowie demo, awesome job cortex!
posted by beta male at 11:45 AM on February 13, 2007

I like this.

I haven't historically recorded reference demos

This seems such odd a way to work to me, but I think that's because for a long time "reference demos" are all I've had the resources to record.

The first couple years I was writing songs, all I had to record with, literally, was my iBook and its internal mic. So... lo-fi-ish two-track (a guitar part, and a vocal part) demos to get the lyrics, structure, and basic melody down were all I did, in general.

I still consider what I've got now to be demo material. Given the resources, I would re-record large chunks of it in a heart beat without remorse, if it couldn't be tarted up by someone better at mixing, etc., than I am.

But in some sense, you go to war with the recordings you've got, the recordings you wish you had.
posted by sparkletone at 5:07 AM on February 15, 2007

I'm with sparkletone -- hell, I'm going to end up with an album's worth of so-called reference demos, if all goes well.
posted by danb at 6:48 AM on February 17, 2007

As a participant and fan of open mics, this song pleases me.

As a fanboy of cortex, this is just simply awesome.
posted by dios at 9:17 AM on February 23, 2007

Final cut (of the whole album) linked yonder.
posted by cortex at 7:45 AM on March 2, 2007

Hey, mexican just sent me a link to this fantastic full-band embellishment of this recording. (You may remember him from such excellent recordings as Medium Rock Song and whatever he posts next, dammit.)

At the Open Mic, Los Muchachos Mexicanos style. So awesome. Thanks, man!
posted by cortex at 8:00 AM on March 4, 2007

For those reading this thread instead of the music top page, I posted my version of cortex's song here. (awesome guitar solo included)
posted by mexican at 6:00 AM on March 5, 2007

Just as an idea - how about encouraging mefites to send a track of clapping along to this track for say a single chorus at the end as the song builds to the outro.

In my head it is sounding like and has the feel of clapping at a football (US: soccer) game...

Also this rocks.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:35 PM on April 26, 2007

Actually - to put up or shut up - if anyone else is keen to clap along with the last chorus send me a recording of you (and your friends) clapping along to the last chorus.

Get a mic - and a headset - and listen to the track a few times. (Make sure there isn't too much background noise or hard surfaces around when recording)

Start it from the clapping beginning at the very last chorus 1:54 seconds on the file above.

There are two times four short claps
four spaced claps
There are two times four short claps
two spaced claps

and then the end.

Applaud the things you like.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:46 PM on April 26, 2007

This song just made my day.

And it's not just because my nickname used to be "HippieChick".
posted by ErWenn at 9:35 PM on March 18, 2008

I picture this as the great lost Jonathan Richman song, too. Everything about it is sincere. Thanks!!
posted by not_on_display at 5:28 AM on September 9, 2009

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