Songwriters in the Round Showcase is a Must-See
Fresh Brewed Coffee House is a place of constant change.
In the five or so years that I’ve been attending shows there I’ve seen not only bands that come and go, but pool tables, couches, P.A. systems, bookshelves, light fixtures, and even walls.
One of the most exciting additions I’ve found in recent years is local songwriter Brian Roessler, who took command of the Open Mic Night at the coffee house in August 2009 and started up the monthly Songwriters in the Round showcase in January 2010.
Just like playing in front of the Fresh Brewed logo has become akin to the stage of CBGB’s in my mind, Songwriters in the Round might as well be VH1’s Storytellers. If Brian comes up to you after your set at the Open Mic Night and asks “Do you want to play Songwriters next month?” it feels as good as being invited on national television.
The reality though, is that these events are relatively small, with perhaps 30 people showing up on a good night.
This Friday’s show couldn’t come close to rivaling the punk rock extravaganza that reached maximum capacity at Island Bar and Grill or the experimental stylings of Myrtle Beach Music King Brian McKenzie at a CD release show just north of Fresh Brewed.
However, for the people who chose a more intimate atmosphere for their Friday the 13th, they got a unique experience, with all three of the night’s performers sitting on the stage at the same time, taking turns singing their songs and telling the stories behind them.
And the audience actually listens.
Second time’s a charm
It was my second time participating in this showcase, and although I’m not a superstitious person, I was a bit apprehensive about playing on Friday the 13th.
It was roughly a week since I returned to Myrtle Beach from my freshman year at Winthrop University — where my original music was kept simmering on the back burner — and I had decided to do a set consisting entirely of songs from my upcoming album. They were still very fresh and raw, almost uncomfortably so. Two of them I had finished writing only two hours prior to arriving at Fresh Brewed.
I shared the stage with Roessler, and another musician I hadn’t met, Jo Elless, who was visiting from out of town.
As we took our seats on stage and plugged in our guitars, I realized I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. Jo had not anticipated the Bike Week traffic of the beach, and had arrived a little late and largely flustered. She had her lyrics written down on a legal pad next to her chair.
Three separate styles were established in the first round.
Brian was the first to perform (so as to give Jo a bit more time to relax) and he started off the evening by thanking everyone who came out before launching into an upbeat song with his open-tuned and percussive guitar playing that sounds like no one else. I was next, playing a rather shaky-voiced song of adolescence, and Jo followed accenting each of her dominant seventh chords and crooning jazz reminiscent of New Orleans.
The next round consisted of Brian playing a song influenced by his friends from college, I played one influenced by friends in high school, and Jo laughed as she said, “You guys have these intricate explanations to your songs. I just like to drink Whisky Martinis. That’s what this one’s about.”
The night carried on like this. I soon got accustomed to the unusual silence that the crowd had adopted during our songs, and we moved onto joking and laughing, only to bring it back down again with some somber songs.
The break and beyond
We took a break to talk with the crowd and get some water.
Check them out
Songwriters in the Round takes place the second Friday of each month at Fresh Brewed Coffee House, 933 A Broadway St. Next month’s event will include country singer Dan Barnhart and hip-hop artist J-Sneeze.
For more on this month's musicians check out:
As the break was winding down, an older couple I had never met before came up to me and said, “We’ve loved the show tonight, and we’re sorry we’ve got to be going. I’ll have to reconsider making my tee time for 7 o’clock! We’re really glad we came though, this was such a great idea.” I noticed the wife was holding one of my CD’s. Later I found that they had slipped a five dollar bill in my collection box.
The show resumed and I could tell it was getting late. The songs became more and more like lullabies, until we reached the final rounds.
Brian belted out “Top of My Lungs,” to which I sang along. When it came my turn I thanked the crowd one more time, “You guys are the reason that these are even songs. I could write them in my bedroom, sing and record them in my bedroom, (which I do), but they don’t mean anything until I share them.”
I invited the crowd to sing along to a brand new song, with the chorus, simply, “And I love you.”
Jo finished with what she deemed her usual closer, “Everybody Loves an Audience,” a song with both sincere gratitude for the warm Fresh Brewed welcome and sarcasm for the things people will do for attention. Brian and I responded with an additional song each, (with me taking a request from the crowd), before calling it a night.
The show ended and I felt like I had just been on national television. Fresh Brewed closed up quickly and quietly, and several of us remained in the parking lot for a while afterward. We were savoring this feeling of community while we could.
Alex Muller attends Winthrop University as an English major and Music minor. He plays acoustic music under the name “This is For My Friends,” and is scheduled to release his second album, “To Call This a Home,” in July.