What exactly is a Humpday Hootenanny?

On the last Wednesday of every month, Walking Fish Theatre hosts an acoustic open-mic night. Live music is the one element of programming we were missing (besides comedy, burlesque, family and educational programs and classic and new plays), and this week, we begin our third.

Vince Friel and Julius Rivera

Vince Friel and Julius Rivera playing at the Scooter Raffle Party.

The musician, in its native habitat, is a very strange thing. It’s a creature that needs to practice its musical habits in public, but often feels more comfortable doing so in private. More often than not, the musician is herded into noisy public spaces to oractice its craft, such as bars. The open-mic night is supposed to be when experienced musicians can show themselves to new audiences and experiment with new music, and emerging artists can try out their developing skills in front of (gasp) other people, and other musicians.

What runs contradictory to this is that open-mic nights tend to be in noisy bars with a television blaring a sports game in the corner and loud conversations going on around them.  Some musicians like this; it allows them to remain relatively anonymous and let the noise of the room mask any mistakes they might make. Some musicians hate it because it ruins their concentration. Some feel like they have to fight to be heard.

Humpday Hootenanny is completely different. It takes place in Walking Fish Theatre’s terrific, intimate space, with reasonable lighting, no television, no sports, and a cafe-like atmosphere. Musicans of all ages and levels of experience are welcome. Hosted by veteran musician Vincent Friel and Walking Fish proprietrix Michelle Pauls, it’s a place where people can experiment, relax, be challenged or just have fun.

Thought the quality of the musicians we’ve gotten has been very high so far, every now and then, shyness or negativity rears its ugly head.  In the first session, local veteran musician Terence Donnelly started playing the challenging “Mother Goose” by Jethro Tull, and stopped, saying, “I can’t play that. ” Vince shouted from the back of the room, “We do these things not because they are easy,” and some of the other musicians responded,  “but because they are hard.” (For the record, Terence played the song beautifully).

Interested? How about tonight, May 27, from 7 to 10?  The next will be June 24, and then we knock off for July and August.   Foer the details, we asked Vince Friel to provide us with his list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Where? Walking Fish Theater, which is conveniently located at 2509 Frankford Ave in beautiful Kensington. Visit http://www.walkingfishtheatre.com for directions and more information. The phone number is 215-427-WALK.

When? Wednesday May 27th at 7pm.

Why? Because people have talent and would like a place to play that does not require them to play over the Eagles, Phillies, or Flyers game.

Who can attend? Everybody, this is open to all ages and all skill levels.

What can I bring? Any instrument as long as it does not require amplification. So leave your new “Road Worn” Telecaster and Vox AC30 at home. And, no drum kits.

You said no drum kits. Can I bring hand percussion instruments? Yes, that’s fine.

I play keyboards, am I out of luck? No, we are making a special dispensation for keyboard players because the theater does not have an available piano. But, do have a piano patch ready to keep with the spirit of the thing.

I don’t play anything. Can I just come and hang out? Heck, yes! Please do!

Why does it have to be “all acoustic”? The theater is very intimate; due to the small size and the reflective nature of the brick walls, electrified sound is overpowering. Having just acoustic instruments saves change-over time, so everybody gets a chance to play. Plus, the theater is in a residential area and we would like to keep the neighbors happy!

What happens if you don’t get a chance to play? Come to the next one and we will put you on the top of the next list.


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