So I went to the Open Mic night at the Northern Quarter bar in Huddersfield last week for the first time and saw an act that was quite upsetting. Turned out to be just a guy doing his act but at the time I was actually kind of terrified. A unique experience. Meet Ethan.
Ethan is a gaunt, serious looking chap, wearing glasses, a long dark coat and a baseball cap. He keeps popping out for smokes all evening and generally seemed a bit jittery. Towards the end of the night he gets called up on stage.
His first song is a slow spoken word cover of “Fever” over a strange noisy electronic backing track, during which he paces nervously around the small stage. For his second song, he kneels down behind a small duffel bag, holding it open towards himself and staring into it.
Through the largish PA system blares an oppressively loud droning noisy low note. His words are distorted by the bass but from what I can make out this is a desperate man unable to care for his family, reaching the end of his tether. He’s been staring into his bag the whole time.
And suddenly I think: has this guy got a gun in his bag and is he going to shoot himself? The loud bass line is upsetting enough, booming against my chest, but now I’m actually a bit concerned. I’m near the open door and I start kind of planning an exit! My heart is racing!
The noise builds and builds and I’m wondering if I’m going to have a panic attack. Then at the peak, he quickly reaches into the bag and pulls out a white papier-mâché mask/helmet, puts it on his head and starts writhing around on the floor.
So Ethan is obviously a genius. But I think the fact I’ve never seen him before, so didn’t know what to expect, and that I was already nervous myself from having performed earlier meant his act landed just “perfectly” and I was quite terrified.
I spoke to him after and excitedly told him my experience but he barely allowed himself a smile. Was I ruining it by acknowledging it? Or was I just the weird one?