Open Letter to Bookophilia on your Open Mic Night

Dear Bookophilia,

I love your Open Mic nights. I look forward to having them fill my (otherwise depressingly empty) Friday evenings. But the last one I attended didn’t quite sit well with me. Here are some of the things that rubbed me the wrong way, and some handy tips for next time.

Tamo J.
Tamo J, stirring the audience.

1. Punctuality

We were waiting for 45 minutes before anyone came to explain the delay and then another 15 minutes before something actually started. If part of the problem was an absent first act, then just use someone who’s already there. It would really help if all the performers showed up at least a half hour before showtime, which is just being professional.

Twisted Minds
Twisted Minds, creating Jamaican hip-hop.

2. Set Limits

Sometimes there are really good performers whom we wish would keep going for the whole night. Sometimes there are really bad ones who just need to stop, please, and sit down. (Just FYI, everyone in these pictures was really good). In either case, having a maximum of two or so pieces (maybe even one if the piece is really long or really bad) can only be a good thing.

Saraya, song-writer & guitarist
Saraya, song-writer & guitarist

3. Be Flexible

With an already late start and a really long show the limits thing I mentioned gets really important. Which brings me to flexibility. Be open to shifting acts around and cutting them short. Be open to not repeating performers you promised a repeat act. Be nice to your older audience members (like me) who just don’t have what it takes to stay out past 11PM any more.

Exile de Brave & de Yard Drive band.
Exile de Brave & de Yard Drive band.

4. The Vibe

This is a conflicting point. On one hand, I expect a certain kind of atmosphere when I go to Bookophilia: a bookstore/coffee shop vibe. The kind of vibe that doesn’t involve Vybz Kartel and people DJing (badly) about life being all about money and wining girls. That kind of vibe kills my vibe.

At the same time you’re a business, I get it. I get that I have never seen so many people at Bookophilia since ever. I get that you guys probably sold more muffins and coffee Friday night than you have sold in a long, long time. So that’s plenty of encouragement to keep doing what you’re doing.

Runkus, who defies genre.
Runkus, who defies genre.

But I think the spirit of an Open Mic is less about crowd-pleasing and more about creativity-sharing, less popularity and more community. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe I’m a bad business person. Or maybe I just miss the intimate line-up of indie poets and songwriters that made me feel like part of something special.

So, please, make money. I expect Bookophilia to be around long enough for me to take my unborn children to your Saturday readings. But, please, don’t commercialize your product (too much). You’ve got a good thing going (what with the Doctor Who geeks who work there and make me feel like less of a crazy person).

Hold on to that independent-bookstore-coffee-shop vibe. I need that.

Sincerely yours,

A Bookophile Saxophonist.

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Thou shalt not be fresher than . . .

It is amazing that I balk at spending $1500 on a novel, but don’t bat at eye at $3000 textbooks.

Last week, I went to Bookophilia’s Open Mic Night with my best friend D and had a great time. There was poetry and music, and musical poetry and pretty boys who could rap and play the guitar. As in pretty boys who could rap and pretty boys who could play the guitar. No multi-talented pretty boys, I’m afraid. But the guitar-playing pretty boy looked like jailbait and anyway I’ve already got one handsome, charming guitarist in my life, and let me tell you: they are a handful.

Anyway, I came away from that night with a few conclusions:

1. Spoken word is meant to be spoken, not read out of a book. Note to self for future (performing?) purposes.

2. Aeropostale-wearing, Standard English-speaking boys singing about hustling is kind of hilarious. I mean, really, hustling? In Barbican?

3. Someone needs to give a headband to the boy who kept flipping his dreads back the entire time he was on stage.

4. If a boy starts a love song with a certain girl’s name then spends the entire song looking soulfully at every girl in the audience except her, it is safe to say he is not a Good Fellow.

5. Unrequited love looks both tragic and poetic from the outside. Perhaps moreso when the guy comes off as a total player (tragedy) while the girl looks sweet and completely besotted (poetry).

6. And finally, the best bookstores serve coffee. On couches. With ambient lighting.

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Check out Bookophilia’s Open Mic Night every first Friday of the month. And their Facebook page here.