That was the best semi-unplugged electric rock set i’ve ever played with Zina on brushes for the first time and, technically, laryngitis.
That’s the summation of this story, but it’s not the whole of it.
When Gina and I were getting confident about Arcati Crisis (generally defined as starting with learning “Apocalyptic Love Song”) we made a list of all of the open mics in the area and tried to go to a new one every month. Some of them were utter trainwrecks. Others were so snooty we never really clicked.
Also, there is the possibility that sometimes we were terrible.
In this campaign of taking Philly by storm we happened upon Studio Luloo, which is actually in Oaklyn, NJ. It was a row-home-width first floor with a couch and chairs placed nose-to-nose with a stage area ready for a four-piece band. Owner and host Sara O’Brien cultivated a total open door policy for her local community, which meant we saw studied experts as well as kids playing in front of people for the first time. She also bought us all pizza. The featured artist was our now-compatriot Ryan Williams and their monitor mix was superb.
We were hooked on Luloo. We later returned as a featured artist (maybe around when we started playing “Better”), but hadn’t been back since we graduated to Zina on drums.
A few weeks ago I noticed Sara and co-conspirator John Shaughnessy talking about a new space for Luloo that would allow them to broaden their mission of bringing arts to kids in the community, and I asked if that meant they needed some featured artists. Thus, we found ourselves in Oaklyn last night playing a full band appearance in a Luloo’s new converted retail shop front, adjoining a pizza parlor.
(This was after Jake and I mistakenly wandered into a children’s dance studio, where I realized our repeated peeking in to ascertain if it possibly doubled as Luloo surpassed looking out-of-place to cross-over to appearing slightly lecherous.)
The new Luloo is at least three times the size as the old one, has room to talk and mingle, and an actual raised stage with a bonus drum riser in the back! Plus, all the same welcoming vibe from John and Sara, who hold casual chats with the performers on stage and never let them leave without a chant of “One! More! Song!”
While we enjoyed unofficial house band Best Wishes knock out a special acoustic set, Sara leaned over my shoulder. “You have drums now, huh?” she asked. I affirmed that we indeed did.
Apparently, Sara was easing into the noise-at-night situation with her new neighbors, and we trying to put the rocked up open mic acts earlier in the evening. Except, we are rocked up and the evening was no longer early.
Not wanting Zina’s commute to go to waste, Best Wishes graciously bowed out after two songs to allow us to set up and make with the rocking at the most reasonable volume we could muster.
What made this interesting was (a) I was still on the tail-end of my laryngitis after largely not speaking for four days, so wasn’t entirely sure I could rock at all, and (b) Zina would apparently be playing with brushes, which I didn’t even realize she owned. To accommodate, our electric was turned down to unplugged levels, and Jake was similarly quiet on bass. We were at half the volume of a rehearsal.
It turned out to be a perfect combination. While I was a bit awkward on electric for Gina’s “American Michaela,” our debut of “End With Me” felt incredibly right. “Real End” resolved from a swirling mix of guitars to a swelling rock song. “Better” regained its sometimes elusive sighing resign thanks to the brushed drums and me going easy on my voice. We closed with a measured “Apocalyptic Love Song” less like a lament and more like a warning.
We ended with a full-band interview with Sara (everyone kept stealing “David Bowie” as an influence and favorite album, so my answers were Tracy Bonham and Like a Virgin, respectively). We stayed for another hour or so, until the open mic wound down to friends sitting around a table trading songs. It will take Sara a few months to build the community at the new Luloo to match what she had at the old one, and I’m really happy became a part of it so early.
Studio Luloo celebrates its fifth anniversary on Saturday. It is located at 215 W. Clinton Ave., Oaklyn, New Jersey. It is not the dance studio or the pizza parlor.