While I usually look down on eulogizing something that hasn’t yet passed, I thoroughly endorse any preemptive tributes for Goodbye Blue Monday. This isn’t to say that I want or expect the longstanding Bushwick venue to close. The opposite is true: I think anyone who’s ever gigged or killed time there should come out black-veils-and-all and throw money to its piles of twisted scrap-heap metal and forever-untouched records.
Still, the threat of the end tends to inflate legacies (see 285 Kent), and GBM is so perennially underrated, I think mourning the place might actually give it the recognition it deserves.
“At Goodbye Blue Monday, if you want to go out to the sidewalk and get yourself punched… ha!” – Joe “Crow” Ryan, Host of Goodbye Blue Monday’s Open Mic Night
The first time I attended the Goodbye Blue Monday Open Mic was also the second time I had been chased at gunpoint (admittedly, the first time was more of an ambush). I was less than sober, wearing flip-flops and following a strange craving for grape soda. When I turned around and saw the armed man in motion, I sprinted against my better judgment, following the corners back to my home and hoping to god for people to be outside. My flip-flops were long gone, but I was soon home safe and barefoot, addled by adrenaline and picking glass out of my feet in the bathtub.
Unable to calm myself, I walked back out and over to GBM which, to be honest, was my other home at the time. At the bar, Larry, a regular stand-up comedy performer who was always heavily intoxicated and difficult to pull from the stage, told me he was “never fun not fucked up.” While I shakily cradled my beer, he pitched himself as a sort-of actor. While I sat still-nervous from the night’s events, he recited (verbatim) most of the dialogue from Predator. He played all of the characters.
“I have a show on Broadway and you’re all in it.”
I started gigging. It was then called the Tuesday Teacup Open Mic. I had a ritual of going to GBM most nights and days after class, crunching numbers to get the most beer for my buck given the $1 price disparity between the 12oz/16oz cans of PBR. Each Tuesday was often the same – me signing the sheet last minute, then running home trying to write a new song, hoping the time constraint would inspire me. Every week I would return with my guitar and play the same two pieces of sad-boy-bullshit. I followed Larry often, waiting in the wings as then co-host and now sole MC Joe “Crow” Ryan politely tangoed with the barely-coherent man on stage. Larry often went over his limit.
“As a member of the community, I feel like I’ve done my best to keep this clubhouse open.”
If this truly was the last week of GBM, I had to attend and play. For all the memories others may have of the venue, for me this was the most resonant. Joe Crow was the first familiar face I saw when I returned to the venue last night. He’s an excellent host in any circumstance, but an especially calming and warm presence in a room filled with people waiting for their time on stage. The name of the open mic had been changed to “The Way Y’Like Open Mic,” but it still felt mostly the same, with as many attentive heads as upright guitar cases, strewn around the room and pointed towards the stage. I saw M. Lamar, a former GBM bartender and acclaimed musician in his own right. “It’s so nice seeing some of the old people come out,” he said, likely in response to my 4-year absence from GBM.
“I’m surprised that I tripped and I’ll maintain that I love a surprise.”
Joe started the night by imploring the crowd to donate. Then he tripped over one of the many wrought iron hazards that litter Goodbye Blue Monday.
I felt the old nerves returning, deciding once and for all to write a new song the day of performing and sticking to it. My attention was split between retaining my memory of lyrics written hastily just hours ago and jotting down the quotes from Joe Crow’s speech (inserted throughout). An older gentleman, guitar in tow, chatted with me about the impending closure, saying something along the lines of: “I hope this place doesn’t close; this is why I moved here.” Performers of varying quality and experience began to play.
“The freest space on the planet.”
Because they will book anyone who asks to be booked without question, GBM never was and never will be a hip place. Even last night, during one of the acts, a regular rolled her eyes at me and said “I know I need a cigarette now.”
Open mics, in general, contradict the carefully curated tastemaking inherent to Brooklyn DIY as popularized by Death By Audio, Market Hotel, Silent Barn and (yes) 285 Kent. From 2008-2010, any night at GBM could feel like an open mic, with local pop-punk bands leading into the unbearable nü metal sounds of dyed hair tour-goths. While Titus Andronicus shifted into critical darling status, I distinctly remember some Glenrock, NJ contemporaries talking shit about them onstage.
This seems to be where I would say Goodbye Blue Monday is for the misfits, dreamers and the real artists, but that would be reductive. Sure, those people existed within the space, but so did everyone else. While I engaged with plenty of likeminded people my own age down the street at Market Hotel, GBM was the place where I felt most connected to the neighborhood; the place where people came by to drink coffee and beer, play music, talk , use the computer, give yoga lessons, buy junk, charge their phones and make art.
“I just found out about this place.” “Yeah isn’t it great?”
That one’s not from Joe Crow’s speech, but rather an exchange I overheard last night and hope to overhear again during this weekend’s last-ditch fundraising events (maybe, hopefully someone who is reading this).
If you must know, I ended up playing the new song (poorly), one of the old songs (well enough) and part of the other old song before being told my time was up, maybe in tribute to “never fun not fucked up” Larry. I sat around still-shaky and waited for Debe Dalton to perform, because she is one of the few musicians who can make me weep openly. As I left the venue after her set, repressing tears and staring down the long dark street where I once ran in mortal-flip-flop-terror, her song lingered: “Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you’re happy to be alive” – a perfect preemptive eulogy to a not-dead-yet place.