This Friday is going to be the 13th year anniversary of OUT OF THE BOX, the open mic that I founded and host with Stephen and Mac. It has been quite a journey over these 13 years, and we've all learned a lot about running a totally inclusive, supportive, yet structured open mic. It has not always been easy, and we had some rough patches.
I think the best thing about this open mic is that we have a team running it. From the first day to this one, we've always had the three of us running the show, usually with one or two other very dedicated helpers - who aided in setting up/break down and sometimes greeting people and running the till. When we first started, I primarily handled the refreshments and the tech, Stephen & Mac handled the door and the decorations. Then things shifted and Mac started to focus a lot on lighting. I was still doing tech and buying the refreshments, but Stephen was putting them up and decorating and a fourth friend Emily handled the greeting and door.
We stayed in that configuration for a couple of years and then Stephen and Mac decided to dive in and buy a PA system. And not just any old PA system but an awesome professional PA system with a lighting tree for two stage lights and two speakers, monitors, inputs, outputs, the whole shbang. It was exciting!
Decorations for the first six years or so of OOTB were rainbow colored table cloths pinned up behind the playing area in different formations. Sometimes Mac did them - sometimes I did them. And then we'd hang multi-colored lights all over the table cloths. It was a look. But now, Stephen upgraded to lighting nets that switch colors automatically (sometimes WILDLY). They are so cool and they still give that celebratory look to the event.
I've always said, if it were up to me we'd be under florescent lights with a mic and an amp and that's it. Stephen and Mac definitely bring the magic.
There was the great refreshment uprising! I was on a vegan kick and not very into sweets (still not into sweets) and boy did we hear complaints about the refreshments from the OOTBers. Not enough chocolate, too many organic foods, I learned my lesson. I still do the shopping for the refreshments each month - and I try to strike a balance between sugary and somewhat healthy. So there's usually baby carrots and dip and bananas along with chocolate cookies and frosted Oreos (for Mac).
There was a time, too, when we didn't have an end time. We would go as late as 11:30 or 12:00 am (once) -- of course people would drop off during the night, but we just didn't have the right angle to limit who could sign up and when. We had a lot of people showing up from an hour or more away and they didn't want to miss out on being on the mic. Some nights we'd have about 25 people on the mic, PLUS a featured artist who got 25 minutes, plus a break, plus everyone taking about 7-8 minutes on the mic... That was practically 3 hours and 45 minutes worth of performances. Stephen came up with the great idea to do a "lightning speed round" after 10:30 pm. That anyone who signed up late, would get the chance to do 2 minutes worth of material - half a song, one short poem - it worked, it got people up on the mic, but we weren't there until midnight.
It's also been great to have a team because I haven't always been able to be at OOTB. I was sick one time in 2006 for about six months and there have been other shorter times that I was either busy with other gigs or struggling with my anxiety. Fortunately, since coming back from my US tour last May 2015, things have been pretty even and I've been able to make OOTB every month. And I can't wait for this month!
Mad crazy love to the nearly 1500 (est.) folks who have come through OOTB over the years. Super mad crazy love to Stephen and Mac without whom I couldn't imagine doing this event. Thank you to everyone who has supported this event, howsoever you have done so.