One winter a couple of years ago I was still in college, I played guitar at every open-mic, and everyone absolutely hated me.
Every other Wednesday, my college held acoustic open mics. Our student body was pretty small, so -- almost -- everyone went to these events. It was one of the only events I attended throughout my college career.
On one particular Wednesday Night, a friend of mine nudged me as another guy strummed his way through "Your Body is a Wonderland" and said,
"You're better than this guy"
I laughed and signed up for the next open mic.
The week before I was scheduled to play in front of a group of strangers, I trekked into the nearest city to watch Inside Llewyn Davis. I've always been a fan of the Coen Brothers so commuting into a city just to see it felt natural.
As the movie went on, I saw a little bit of myself in the titular character Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Issac). He didn't really have a place to stay, he played music people didn't really appreciate, and he was kind of a prick.
At the time, I was all of those things. As the movie came to a close -- the same way it started by the way, it was almost like it was it's own little folk song -- I instantly loved it. I raced home and learned as many songs from the movie as I could.
When they called me up (Note: I never use my real name when I play open mics, so when they called up Autumn and Maggie and one hipster walked on the stage, I had already started on the wrong foot) the applause started loud but quickly dissipated once I sat down on the provided chair.
I sheepishly said, "hello" into the microphone and played the song at the top of this card.
Yeah. I played a song titled: "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" to a room full of people who already decided that they didn't like me.
I followed up that depressing cover with another depressing song -- this time it was one I wrote. I know, I'm two for two.
As my set went on, I couldn't help but feel like people were clapping for me just because it's what's expected of them. And I don't know if I was okay with that. I wanted people to like what I was doing. I wanted some recognition, some real attention.
I ended my set with Fare Thee Well (the song at the top of this card) -- I thought it was clever -- no one in the audience did, though.
After my set, I left the event, put my guitar back in my car, and lit a cigarette outside. I took a deep breath in and let the smoke settle in my stomach. It was the only thing that felt better than my performance.
Shortly afterwards, someone came outside and joined me, "You just got off the stage, right?" he asked. I nodded. "I liked it. You got a good voice, man." He continued, "I get your whole thing, you don't give a fuck."
That wasn't my thing. At least it wasn't back then. These days, I don't really play out as much as I used to.
But when I do... I sing and I scream and I cry, but not for help or recognition. Just to be heard.