"Is the guitar too loud?" "Nope." "Should it be louder?" "Yeah!"
Tim Harmon, local singer/songwriter, questions the audience on the noise level of his guitar at the Monday Night Songwriter Showcase on May 17 at the Player's Pub, located at 424 S. Walnut St. People continuously trickle through the door to enjoy food, drinks, good company and great music.
Suzette Weakley, one of the showcase's founders and a main organizer, says the weekly gig's reputation has grown so much in the past four years that touring songwriters from across the country looking for filler gigs find it a perfect opportunity.
Co-organizer and soundman Dave McConnell agrees: "We've gained a good reputation as a venue in terms of writers across the country," he says. "A lot of times one musician talks to another, so they contact us. Or if we're out at open mic nights, and we see someone we would like to have, we'll approach them."
To date, the showcase has featured around 300 musicians. On, May 17, Greg Klyma, Kevin Danzig, Tim Harmon and Terry Turley gave Bloomington a taste of their musical styles. It was Klyma's first show, but Danzig, Harmon and Turley have performed in the Monday Night Songwriters Showcase on at least one other occasion. Harmon and Turley are both locals. Klyma is from Buffalo, Danzig from San Clemente, Calif.
The Songwriter Showcase began when Weakley and Bobbie Lancaster concluded Bloomington needed more than just open mic nights: it needed a place where musicians could come and play their own music. Weakley collaborated with McConnell, and she approached Greg Hill, owner of the Player's Pub, to suggest doing a songwriters showcase once a week.
The showcase was given a Monday night slot from 8-10 p.m., with no cover charge. About eight musicians passionately wrote songs to fill the early shows until it gained popularity and many local supporters by word of mouth.
Since then, it's all been up, or down, depending on the perspective.
"Every week is like a snowball rolling downhill, picking up speed, talent and audience members," Weakley proudly says.
Weakley and McConnell believe that all the musicians have great stories and great songs.
"I enjoyed Klyma very much," McConnell says. "He has good lyrics and a stage presence that most people don't have. I'm not sure he knew what to expect with the showcase, but by the end of the night, I think he was sold on the whole thing."
Typically, there are four musicians in each showcase. Sitting in a line on stage together, they take turns playing their original songs. Often there's a story behind the lyrics that the musician shares with the audience.
"It's a songwriter's job to bare his soul," Turley tells the audience.
Each song ends with the audience screaming and clapping.
"Anyone who comes for the first time marvels at how the audience listens," Steve Johnson, musician and audience member, explains. "They close their eyes and really hear the lyrics."
Musicians hear about the pub through other musicians, or Weakley, McConnell or Tom Marshallek, Monday Night Songwriters Showcase Web promoter, find them and ask if they're interested.
The songwriters send a demo, or McConnell or Weakley listen to them online. Weakley says that all three of them -- herself, McConnell and Marshallek -- agree on which musicians to choose. Available dates are sent to the selected musicians, and it's a first-come-first-served basis on who gets which dates.
"What we try and do with each showcase is have different styles of music so everyone isn't the same. We try to find people with a different take or standout lyrics." - Dave McConnell, Songwriter Showcase
McConnell believes it's refreshing to see musicians with diverse styles perform on Monday nights.
"What we try and do with each showcase is have different styles of music so everyone isn't the same," he says. "We try to find people with a different take or standout lyrics."
Marshallek thinks Indiana is a cultural oasis that has a good, homegrown crop of singer/ songwriters.
Audience members and musicians return on Monday nights for a number of reasons. McConnell believes it has a lot to do with Hill being respectful of original and local/regional music. He's heard on a number of occasions from both the audience and musicians that the Player's Pub is a comfortable place.
"A lot of people are used to playing in smoky, loud bars," Hill says. "Here, people come to listen. And we provide a safe, clean atmosphere."
Another helping hand in the success of the Monday Night Songwriters Showcase is the Bloomington community's support of the arts and songwriters.
"It takes a small, artsy, enlightened community," Weakley says. "They don't want to hear you sound just like your record."
Weakley's claim is correct; the Songwriter Showcase is like a snowball rolling down a hill, continuously gaining popularity. While they performed almost weekly the year the Songwriter Showcase began, Weakley says, she, McConnell and Marshallek now play only about three times a year.
"The Player's Pub is honored to host it," Hill says. "It's one of my favorite nights of the week. I look forward to Monday night."
"It's now 9:55 p.m. on that clock back there," Klyma says to Weakley from stage "... So I'm gonna ask our hostess what she wants us to do. Should we sing a song everyone can play along with or do one more round?"
"You do what you want," she replies.
"Okay, let's party naked!" Klyma laughs. "Now that'd be a folk show if I ever did see one."
Megan Ehrbacher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.