The Boston suburb of Jamaica Plain has a reputation for being eclectic and inclusive. For 25 years, the Midway Cafe has (so the bartender told me) sought to reflect all the local flavors in its music shows and other events.
After one night, I can’t speak to all that, but I can say the exterior belies the character inside. Or it does until you get close enough to see the walls shaking by force of heavy damn decibels, enough that you might think the blue awning might come loose any second.
That was my experience last Sunday, at any rate, showing up stupid-early even for me for the open mic slated to start at 9pm. They had a band on at 4:30 that afternoon and they were some kinda punk-wild, best I could tell from the vibrating building.
I waited out the hours elsewhere and came back still early enough to suit me. Which means I had time to chat with the bartender and the host and get comfortable in the room.
By Comedians, For Comedians (But Open to All Comers)
Sunday nights comedian Angela Sawyer runs an open mic they call Midway or the Highway, which she told me is mostly amateur comics, though they do get a few musicians and welcome poets and other acts.
You sign up by writing your name on an index card and dropping it in a metal bucket, from which Angela and her cohost Gabe Stoddard draw blocks of three names. They give each act a friendly introduction and back-announcing, and take a minute or two between acts to crack a joke or otherwise set everyone up for success.
All good things.
As skeptical as I usually am about open mic comedy, turns out it’s better when there’s more of it. The audience comes in that frame of mind, I guess. And somehow it’s less awkward when a joke falls flat, because everyone in the room already stipulated to the experiment.
A Video to Prove It This Time
Bearing witness to this spirit of experimentation: A Go-Pro camera mounted on the wall at stage left, over near the sound board. If you sign up on a separate list, Angela will send you a link to the video of your performance—a huge asset to anyone looking to improve her on-stage presence.
Naturally, I took her up on it and was pretty surprised to get it the very next night and grateful to find it was an unlisted YouTube post, meaning no one can access it unless I share. Which of course I am, because hey, why not?
So here you go, two poems the way it happened that night: the first one titled “he said he’d have to think about it” and the second “one last personals ad” (which, if you’d like to read it, was published online by Rat’s Ass Review in its Love & Ensuing Madness section, although you’ll have to do some scrolling).
Bottom line: Midway or the Highway is a solid open mic for any performer, and a great one if you are a comic or like comics. Totally worth the trip.
As a bonus, I get to spend a few cycles ruminating on a passing comment from the comic at the bar who said, as I returned to my seat, “Now all the men are afraid to talk to you.”
And here all this time I thought the stigma of the unapproachable lady poet was all around wearing jangly bracelets and owning too many cats…