In Bucktown on Sunday nights at a squat side-street building with loud antics and a giant graffitied mural along one side, everybody gets their fifteen minutes. Texas Fred hosts the open mic every week at Gallery Cabaret while portraits of Picasso, Joyce, Poe and Shaw look down upon those at the bar. With shoulder-length white hair and wire-rimmed glasses, Texas Fred seems to have ignored every year since 1969. He announces each performer and delivers dusty anecdotes about hitchhiking with a voice rough from what could be the build-up of pot resin in his throat.
Fifteen minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. Pitcher after pitcher of Leinie’s, the Gallery’s special, is spent composing the perfect set list, while a middle-aged single mother is trying her hand at stand-up comedy and isn’t nearly as bad as the spoken-word poet that preceded her.
You got here later than usual and had to sign up eighteenth and in the middle of trying to decide between “Bad Moon Rising” and “Don’t Speak,” you realize that your fifteen won’t come for four-and-a-half hours.
After the couple that bonds by singing Pink Floyd covers displays a quick kiss and steps off the stage, the cheap alarm clock behind the bar says that it’s almost last call. Texas Fred calls your name and you almost fall over a chair on your way to the stage. On stage, the hardest part is trying to decide which microphone to sing into before you burst into “Dream Weaver” and forget the lyrics halfway through. You promise yourself get there earlier next Sunday. (Zachary Willhoff)