Last night Kish and I joined our friends Dr. Science and the Bionic Half-Marathoner for the Columbus Songwriters Association Finale Showcase at Notes. We were there to see their son, Jack, compete with more than a dozen other local songwriters.
It was also our introduction to the Columbus Songwriters Association, an interesting organization that says a lot about what our city has to offer. The CSA seeks to nurture and support the creative impulses of lots of homegrown musicians, by doing things like hosting Songwriter Showcase events where the musicians get to perform live at venues like Notes. The ultimate goal of the CSA is to make Columbus into a music city, like Nashville. It’s a worthy goal, because any great city needs vibrant music and arts scenes. In that regard, we thought it was pretty cool that we walked to the CSA Finale Showcase directly after leaving a great performance of La Boheme by Opera Columbus, which meant that we touched very different points on the live music spectrum in the space of just a few downtown blocks.
At last night’s event, 19 different musicians performed their own songs before an overflow crowd that jammed the club. After each song, audience members completed evaluation cards for each performer. The cards were eventually collected and counted, along with the reactions of a panel of judges, to decide who made it to round two. Although we had to hit the road before the second round began, participating in the first round was a lot of fun and showed that Columbus has a lot of budding musical talent. We particularly liked Jack, of course, but I also want to mention Maya Mougey, a teenager who showed tremendous poise in playing guitar and singing a song she wrote about losing touch with her sister who had moved on to high school. We sat next to what looked like a table of her friends who cheered like crazy for her when she was finished, and we did, too.
If you’re in Columbus and you’re looking for some good live music, take a gander at the music venue sites and see whether Hello Emerson is playing somewhere. Kish and I caught the trio last night with Dr. Science and the Bionic Half-Marathoner at The Basement in the Arena District, and they’re definitely worth a good listen.
In the interests of full and fair disclosure, I should add that Jack Doran, the keyboard player and percussionist for Hello Emerson, is the oldest son of Dr. Science and the BH-M. I don’t think I’m influenced by bias, however, in saying that Hello Emerson plays some interesting and tuneful music that just might get you to thinking about life. There was a pretty good crowd at The Basement to listen to them last night as the first band in a three-band show, and the group got a rousing ovation at the end of their set.
According to Sam, the guitar player and lead singer, Hello Emerson plays regularly at the brilliantly named Kerouac Kafe in Columbus. Catch them if you can!
Tonight Kish and I went down to the Ohio State campus, to the Scarlet and Grey Cafe, to watch the debut performance of Jack Doran, son of Dr. Science and the Lovely Anita. It was like old times as we paid an $8 cover charge and sat on somewhat rickety stools in a dark bar to enjoy some live, local music.
Jack played six songs, accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar, and he did a wonderful job. All of the songs were his own creations, and he played and sang them with the assurance of a seasoned veteran. It must have been difficult to play with proud parents (and their friends) crawling all over the establishment taking pictures and video, but he pulled it off.
It was fun to go down to campus and to catch a bit of the music scene. Before Jack took the stage we watched an all-female band named, I think, Scrimshaw the Mariner. They were quite entertaining as they deftly played banjos, ukeleles, guitars, washboards, and an instrument that looked like a breathing apparatus and also sang some a cappella pieces.
From our brief exposure tonight, I’d say the local music scene in Columbus is alive and well. Great job, Jack!