On Monday night, I finally made my way out to Staten Island to check out an open mic that blues singer Caroline Cutroneo hosts at The Muddy Cup, a coffee house on Van Duzer Street in Stapleton. I’d met Caroline a few months ago at a gig she did at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, and she’d mentioned that there was a small but thriving acoustic music scene on Staten Island. She’s not kidding. It was a fun and welcoming open mic with some truly brilliant musicians, some of whom were kind enough to ask me to sit in with them. I did two songs of my own, “Preserved Fish” and “Remember the Future,” which I’m happy to say went over well. And I’ll likely be playing with some of those folks in the future.
Open mics are scary; it’s one thing to play on stage in a band or even to do your own songs with a partner backing you up. But playing my own songs, all by myself, in front of an audience of complete strangers, is still pretty new to me. But it went well, and on top of that I discovered quite a nice musical scene in an unexpected place. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say “I grew up in Westerleigh” and have anyone know what I was talking about.
I wish I knew everyone’s names here, but I don’t. On the left is a bass player who was doing a great job on songs he’d never heard; Caroline Cutroneo who hosts the mic; Gene Gambardella and Guy Michetti, a/k/a Acoustic Thunder; Chris, a singer-songwriter; James Brennan, another great guitarist; and some harp player from Brooklyn.
The Muddy Cup is a very nice venue — lots of old couches and chairs in a very pretty old building. (I’ve heard musicians complain that the old furniture gives them allergy problems, but I didn’t notice anything.) Stapleton is a marginal neighborhood now but it’s an old North Shore town with some beautiful 19th century architecture.
Thanks to Dennis Jackson for taking and emailing the photographs.