Last night Hattie and I went to Magdalena’s Tea House for their weekly open stage night. Magdalena’s once was the closest thing I had to a home in Lansing. In August 2005 I started going to Michigan State and was sharing a shitty little dorm room with a guy whom I had nothing in common with. I tried going out to a couple of the college parties that I’d heard so much hype about, but these parties were just overflowing with macho party animal dickheads and scantily clad bitchy bimbos and I either ducked out right away or stayed around until some dudebro tried to pick a fight with me (which didn’t take very long). I had some friends in town, but I really wanted to meet people that had real ideas about the world and a desire to take part in the creative. Hattie and I knew about Magdalena’s Tea House, The Plurals had played there before even, so one Wednesday in September 2005 we decided to check out their open stage night. We didn’t play the first time, but we met Chris Dorman, who hosted the open stage night, and someone who, although I rarely see him anymore, I consider to be one of the best people I know. We went back the next week, played a couple songs (totally acoustic because they had to turn the PA off at 11 PM or else the guy who lived upstairs would start stomping) and a nice girl named Maia introduced herself to us. With those two introductions I went on to meet nearly everyone in Lansing that I count as a good friend. Scott Bell, of Bermuda Mohawk Productions and Cartridge Family fame, and Adam Aymor, that guy who plays guitar in Cheap Girls, were friends of Maia’s and they were usually hanging around, and a few months later when I experienced the Cartridge Family for the first time I started piecing together who was actively involved in the Lansing music scene. In the meantime, Chris Dorman formed a band called A Story Told that The Plurals played a lot of shows with, and he was actively going around town meeting people and inviting them to the open stage night. One of these kids was a little longhaired 17 year old named Jeremy Rizik, who covered “sugar we’re going down” by Fall Out Boy the first time he played at Magdalena’s. He says now that it was satire; I still think he was sincere. The list goes on: Autumn, Jo Taylor, Jacki, Steve Leaf, Hot Rod, Jim, Brett McDowell, Indigo, Lennon, and Magdalen Fossum, Chris Linsell, the late Phil Wintermute (a truly wonderful man whom I feel privaleged to have known) and so many more. I met so many amazing people and was so inspired to be a part of something so creative and transcendent; my week began to revolved around these open stage nights. It was my weekly escape from the college life that I was beginning to despise (and indeed, it was just the beginning of that whole bit) and I know a lot of people were first familiar with the name “The Plurals” due to my and Hattie’s hit-and-miss attempts to play acoustic songs. It didn’t matter though, it was fun and it was an amazing thing to be a part of.
When or why things changed I’ve never been sure. At the end of the 05-06 school year people went away for the summer, and some people were in high school and moved away from the area. It carried on for a decent little while, maybe even another year, but the faces were changing at the shows and the people themselves were changing. Chris Dorman reached a point where he couldn’t volunteer his services to run the open stage night every week, and that certainly dealt a blow to the scene. Hattie and I – along with Nich, Frankie, and Stefan – had moved into the GTG House by this point, so we were now starting to kick up our own thing and we were less focused on being part of the Tea House scene. The Tea House itself underwent many changes, and it got to a point where I had no idea what days of the week they were open or when their hours were or how often they had shows. The Plurals, The Break-Ups, The Knights Without, and Head and Toe all made the Tea House a regular venue through the middle of 2007, but eventually it just drifted out of our radar. Part of it was that we were tired of having to turn down or play acoustic when we wanted to try bigger and more open things. Mostly we just weren’t in contact with anyone that was part of the scene anymore.
A few weeks ago, on May 16, Luke Schmidt put on a show at the Tea House that The Break-Ups and CrookedSound played. It was the first time I’d played there in nearly two years. It was a great show, and the following week practically all of us played there for the first Damn Yankees Part Deuce show. That show was the first time I’d seen the owner, Miko, in nearly a year and she told me that it was great we all got to come back and play since they were closing at the end of the month. Wow. Magdalena’s closing. A place that at one time was such an important part of my life would soon be gone. It will always be important to me for holding me together for that eighteenth year of my life. Some people dive into drugs or alcohol or become obsessed with money… I played a lot of music and made a lot of friends. Those fucking hippies, corrupting our youth!
So Hattie and I went last night because we knew it would be the last one. It was completely different from the venue of my coming-of-age story, but as we sat up there and I closed my eyes and sang “Exercise in Humility” on that stage and hoped that I didn’t suck playing acoustic, it felt like four years had barely gone by. The four years that had passed were evident in other ways – little Magdalen Fossum, who can’t be older than 8 years old, sang a set on the ukulele and sang beautiful harmonies with her mom. Amazing. I was hoping to get some of the old gang back together, but Jo Taylor was the only one that made it out. She sang her song “The Answer,” which Hattie and I heard for the first time in that room some four years ago. We hung out for awhile, Jo had to leave early because she was working early in the morning. That didn’t used to be a problem. This whole month has been very strange to me. I’ve been working in Ionia and living at my parents’ house half the time, Drinking Mercury and My Apology have performed live, I’ve played two shows at Magdalena’s, and I will probably be seeing some old friends I haven’t seen in years this weekend. Getting older. It doesn’t make me sad, but it’s certainly strange.