Hosting an Open Stage
The unthinkable happened last week. Kevin Quain, our host at the Mad Bastard Cabaret, fell ill at the last moment. There was no host to replace him.
Many of the regulars were there. We'd brought our instruments, and we wanted to play. So we decided to host ourselves. It was supposed to be anarchy. I went on first, and announced the next guy, Timothy John Robert. He was supposed to announce who was going after him, but I had to find out who that was while he was performing. (It was Andrea, I believe) And then she would have to announce the next person.
Oh, I guess it could have been done, but a self-organising open stage is harder to run. It's easier to have one person doing the organising. Tony Hightower and Max Metrault encouraged me to play host, so I did.
At most open stages, the host has several responsibilities:
- Set up and tweak the sound system (unless there's a sound tech)
- Play an opening set
- Find out who wants to perform, and what order (possibly by circulating a list)
- Warn each act when their turn is coming up
- Introduce each act and ensure the sound equipment is set up properly for them
- Play a closing set (optional)
- Dismantle the sound system (unless there's a sound tech)
I think I did fairly well. The sound system was already set up, and I played one of Kevin's songs first, in homage. I only did three songs, the same as everyone else. (At that point, I thought we were going with anarchy.) I think my stage presence was good, though I know my introductions weren't as clever as Kevin's. The one privilege I took was playing a closing song.
Although I was only the de facto host, not everyone knew this, and they treated me as if I had authority. It was strange to be on the other side of this particular looking glass, tweaking the sound, choosing the order of guests. I found myself saying the same kinds of things I'd heard Kevin say. When some acquaintances of mine arrived late they asked if they could still perform. I said, "Well. . . One song you say? Alright, I guess we can squeeze you in." and "It's kind of late now. . . we'll see how things go.", and so on.
In the end, everyone got to perform. In fact, they got to do more songs than usual, because we started the Open Stage part early.
I'd wanted to take a stab at hosting for a while, and told Kevin I'd be happy to fill in for him if he ever needed me. I'd even learned how the sound system ticked so I could host.
When it finally fell in my lap, it was fun to do something different and host for an evening. I'd like to do it again sometime.