Monday night, I was lucky enough to be invited to guest judge Lizard Lounge’s famous Open Mic Challenge. Hosted by the entertaining and talented Tom Bianchi, the Open Mic Challenge attracts major talent – both local and national. Tom admits that he modeled the format of the open mic after Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, GA, but something about the feel of the event is all Cambridge, MA.
I was warmly welcomed into the dark den under Lizard Lounge, and warned I was in for a long night. With twenty performers allotted two songs or ten minutes apiece, I could see it would be a lengthy show, but what I failed to realize was that my music criticism ability would be strongly put to the test. Sure, I had attended open mic events in the past. They were the sometimes painful shows in which new (possible) talent tested their wings, and true talent was glaringly easy to spot. Or so I thought.
Lizard Lounge is different.
First, Tom is a charismatic and charming host. He welcomes and compliments new and emerging talent, and heckles regular performers with snide, thinly-veiled compliments for the entertainment of all. His self-deprecating humor made the breaks between musicians something to look forward to, and his masterful sound mixing during performances optimized each note. “I love my job!” Tom quietly exclaimed several times through the night, and it was clear he was telling the truth. This was his 246th open mic at Lizard Lounge. He seems ready for at least that many more.
Some pretty amazing musicians have won the Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge in the past (hello, Low Anthem), and a bevy more have been shortlisted. The night I judged was certainly no exception. It was an open mic, and I was prepared to suffer through some hideous musicians. The first act, Crystal and Bob, blew me away. Bob’s songwriting is intricate and heartfelt, and Crystal’s performance of his lyrics was truly ethereal. Musician after musician, original song after original song, I was in awe. By the ninth performance I was silently praying that the next person up would absolutely suck. He didn’t. None of them did. By the twelfth performance I was already regretting my choice to act as judge, and by the fifteenth I was in excruciating anguish – I was both enjoying each performance massively, and inwardly crying over being able to choose only three of them.
The night drew near its end. Tom and I retired to the back of Lizard Lounge to discuss my choices. Some of the performers had left early, which, while I was sad not to have the chance to honor their talent, made my job a lot easier. Back inside, I nervously stood onstage and babbled on about everyone in that room being a talent in their own right, blah blah blah, and then I announced my shortlist: Dani Moz, an attractive blond piano player with a fiercely powerful, soulful voice, Caitlin Canty, a likeable folk singer and guitarist whose songs cut right to the listener’s heart, and Jared Salvatore, a talented musician with an indefinable star quality.
All three performed on more song. All three made me feel glad I was in attendance that night, and all three made me sorry I had to choose only one. As Tom quipped, “Amber would have flipped a coin, but those only have two sides.” After much deliberation (Tom must have hated me by the end of our time in the judge’s chamber/greenroom), I made my decision: Caitlin Canty would take home the door prize and bragging rights that night.
Check Caitlin out at Club Passim on September 1st opening for Peter Bradley Adams, and be sure to catch Jared Salvatore on September 2nd at Middle East Upstairs.
The Lizard Lounge’s Open Mic Challenge is worth checking out whether you’re a songwriter or just a music aficionado. It happens every Monday night – doors are at 7:30, and performances start at 8. Tom prefers that prospective talent signs up at one of the events, but if you’re traveling from outside of greater Boston, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando
I owe him a poem:
Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town.
He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.
He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.
He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make
There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.
Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.
He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too
Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.
Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.
Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:
If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out.
The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.
I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius!
Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.
Kingsized Holiday Fun! Big Mike is Back at the Variety Playhouse!
Big Mike Geier and his Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll Orchestra, along with the Dames Aflame Dancers, Lil’ Santa and other special guests, bring tidings of comfort and joy with their signature glitz and glamour in what has become a tinsel-time tradition at the Variety Playhouse. The all-ages 90-minute show features your Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!
We caught up with Big Mike to ask a few questions.
TBB: Big Mike! It’s been a couple years since we had the pleasure of seeing you perform live. We are so excited to be back in Atlanta and we are ready for this show. What can you tell us about this years event?
Big Mike: Welcome back to Atlanta, Ange! We’re also excited to be in town for another wild and wonderful Holiday Jubilee. We like to honor the tradition that the Jubilee has become and don’t mess too much with the format. You can expect the always magnificent sounds of the 12-piece Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll orchestra performing your favorite holiday classics and the dazzling Dames Aflame dancers providing the glamour. The show is all about holiday nostalgia, whatever that means to you: Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Donnie Hathaway, The Grinch, Rankin Bass, Peanuts, the Dreidel Song? It’s all in there.
Turkuaz at Aisle 5
Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz played at Aisle Five in Atlanta last week and here are some shots from the show!
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