End of an Era

by Dan Jordan

This is a follow up post to something I wrote back in November about the end of the Ale Industries open mic, my home away from home in Concord California. I wrote most of what follows the day after the last open mic with the intention of editing it in the following weeks. But I hate editing so here it is pretty much verbatim.

Thursday January 23rd was the very last AI Open Mic. If you happened to be there you know how magical it was, and if you weren’t I don’t think I can capture it in words.

But I want to write something anyway. So here we go.

Cliches get a bad rap, but they really shouldn’t. The only reason we get tired of hearing them is because the good ones are so true that we hear them all the damn time. That’s why they become cliches.

Here’s one for me from the great John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Had you asked me a couple years ago what effect a small Concord brewery moving to Oakland would have on me at the start of 2014, I wouldn’t have had an answer because the question would have made no sense. But life happened and I somehow ended up with a  home away from home at Ale Industries.

I don’t know if I can convey to anyone who didn’t go how important that place was to me, and to a lot of other people. I’ve played in bands on and off for as long as I can remember, but I’ve always felt something was missing from the music. I found what I was missing there.

Musicians are by nature insecure and competitive people. We pretend we’re not, but we are. For every act that’s doing well there are a thousand others that aren’t that would give anything and do anything to seize that spot.

But that’s never been the point of music. In fact, the point of music is that it is pretty much pointless. We make music for the simple reason that it is in our nature to make music, just as it is in our nature to crave companionship and to walk upright.

You don’t sing in the shower to get a record contract. You don’t dance at weddings to showcase your talent. A night that ends with drunken singing is the best kind of night there is.

I’m not naive enough to say that music has ever or can ever be “pure”. It’s made by us humans so we’ll always throw our nonsense into it – our jealousies, egos, and insecurities have actually made some of the great music through the ages.

What I really like about music, though, is something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s a sense of community and a sense of shared humanity.  Everyone who has ever lived has sung a song at some point, even if they only did it because they thought no one was listening.

I loved this particular open mic because it captured that feeling very well. No one was trying too hard to be famous. We weren’t in San Francisco where the cool kids vie for attention from cooler kids who are trying to get noticed by independent labels who are themselves vying for attention from bigger labels.

There was no scene to speak of.

There was beer and there was music and that was about it. And that’s all you really need. Anything else will just clutter it up.

As for the last open mic itself, it was great. The place was much busier than a normal open mic night. Regulars came through, semi-regulars came through, and people who haven’t played in a while came through. Beer was drunk, cigarettes smoked, jokes and memories shared, and songs sung.

To close out the night the host led everyone in a sloppy, rough, and entirely beautiful rendition of “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Here’s the video. It gives me goosebumps.