1. OVERPLAYED CLASSIC ROCK GUY - Sure, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Van Morrison are legends. But enough is enough! You might think you've heard "Brown Eyed Girl" or "Carolina in My Mind" enough to last you 889 lifetimes and a few millennia into your final death, but this guy sure as hell doesn't think so - you need to hear them a few thousand more times! Who cares if there are literally thousands of well-known, phenomenal songs in the history of Western music? Let's break out "Ohio" or "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" one more time! Yes, when you hear those wailing, plaintive harmonica notes, you know yet another rendition of "Heart of Gold" is on the way, tempting you to dunk your face directly into your scalding-hot, overpriced coffee drink.
Performing Skill: 6 out of 10
Creativity: 2 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 8 out of 10
2. WAILING, JAZZY, SUNDRESS GIRL - Holy crap! This girl can really sing! This open-mic performer is blessed with an amazing set of pipes and, by god, she's not afraid to use 'em. Her pitch is dead on, and she effortlessly belts out standards like "At Last" and "Unforgettable" LOUD ENOUGH to blow down the back wall of the coffee house. She's humble and sweet and makes you want to slit your wrists for ever thinking you could warble your way through any song with more than a 3 whole-step range. You won't mind the loud singing, but you may not hear the oncoming traffic as you walk home later in the evening.
Performing Skill: 9 out of 10
Creativity: 6 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 10 out of 10
3. RAMBLING, QUITE POSSIBLY MENTALLY ILL GUY - This is the "musician" that gets up and "sings" three "songs" which are completely atonal - and not in an experimental avant-garde sort of way. In fact, the words sound more like someone reading the local paper's editorial section backwards. Come to think of it, there's a good chance that's what it is. This fellow is the single most powerful argument against the democracy of the open mic, but no one will say anything because, well, they're scared sh*tless.
Performing Skill: 10 out of 10 - in creeping people out
Creativity: Maroon out of Chimpanzee
Crowd Approval: N/A - More like abject terror mixed with a singular desire to avoid eye contact.
4. THE BAD CHECKS - Three self-involved musicians and/or singers (x, y, and z) who arrive together and, by going up individually AND in every possible combination (x plays guitar while y sings; y and z both sing with no x; all three go up together, etc. etc.), manage to keep coming back, thereby turning the three-song-per-artist limit into a four-hour (albeit spread-out) Springsteen-final-night-at-the-Garden-length extravaganza.
Performing Skill: 5 out of 10 - but only when you add the three together.
Creativity: 3 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 7 for the first set, plummets to 2 by the time they hit the stage for the 6th or 7th time.
5. AMERICAN IDOL WANNA-BE - Her friends told her she should be on Idol! Her mom told her she should be on Idol! Her teachers told her she should be on Idol! There's only one small problem: She sucks. And you're the only one who knows it, so you get to listen to her bleating "Jesus Take the Wheel" heinously off-key to a grand total of 8 people (three who are her relatives).
Performing Skill: 1 out of 10
Creativity: Negative 8 out of 10
Ego: 578 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 7 out of 10, except for you
6. DEADHEAD OUT-OF-TIME - He's a young man of only 17, decked out in flip-flops, cargo shorts and a tie-dyed t-shirt. He sports trendy, barely-there facial hair, smells vaguely like oregano, and while he does enjoy more recent jam-band Phish, his heart truly belongs to the Dead. How this is possible, no one knows, considering the band passed their artistic zenith almost 25 years before he was born, but there he is, trotting out such chestnuts as "Casey Jones," "Ripple" and "Uncle John's Band." No "Shakedown Street," though.
Performing Skill: That's not what it's ABOUT, MANNNN
Creativity: Depends on what sort of a night he's having
Crowd Approval: 10 if they had some, er, "oregano" earlier that evening. 4 if not.
7. THE POET - Ah, yes, we DO all try to indulge the poet, don't we? Haha! That cute little limerick about coffee was sort of cute, but uh oh, now he's doing his magnum opus... oh no... he's got reams and reams of pages... how long does this thing go on? Are we going on 10 minutes for one poem here? Is this supposed to be profound? I guess that part was important, he just used a really bad curse word... oh, there it is again. Maybe it's the name of the poem. Sigh. What's all this stuff about birds in maple syrup? Man, I really need to read more poetry... maybe I'd appreciate this stuff more...people are laughing, I guess THEY get it. Damn it!
Performing Skill: 7 out of 10
Creativity: 8 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 8 out of 10, because we don't want to look like idiots
8. MEGA-MONSTER-EXTENDED -VERSION GUY: Closely related to The Bad Checks (See #4), this is the cat who was told there's a "three song limit." (as opposed to a time limit) so he's going to turn every song into "Inna Gada Davida," even if it kills him and you. Sure you'll be sitting there thinking, "I could have sworn `Take It Easy" only has 3 verses, not 27," but that's your tough luck.
Performing Skill: 5 out of 10
Creativity: 2 out of 10
Crowd Approval: They're usually on the verge of rioting by verse 22
9. INSTRUMENTAL GUY - With rapturous intensity and a nuanced touch, he executes beautifully sculpted and tender lead lines on his classical guitar, breathing new life into vintage melodies. With each delicate note, some say it's as if this virtuoso is channeling the gods of music themselves. In other words, bathroom break.
Performing Skill: Off the charts
Creativity: 10 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 6 out of 10, the philistines
10. THE SENSITIVE SOUL - He trots out every top 40 love song (or quasi-love song) from the last 10 years - stuff like "You're Beautiful", "Your Body Is a Wonderland", and "Apologize." If things get really rough, he'll whip out a "She Will Be Loved." Anything with the wavering, aching falsetto in the chorus will do, really. As long as it gets him laid.
Performing Skill: 9 out of 10
Creativity: 1 out of 10
Crowd Approval: 10 out of 10 (women) 0 out of 10 (men)
Photo by: Brian Richardson