By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
"Why are you so scared?" Conchita asks me as we walk up to Cosmos Cafe (69 Heights Boulevard, 713-802-2144).
"Open-mike nights terrify me."
"But you're not even singing; why are you nervous?"
"Have you ever been to one of these?" She shakes her head no. "It's freaking scary what you see up there. If we're lucky, the worst we'll see is just a nice church-choir lady who thinks she's Tina Turner. Or some guy with no teeth who wants to whistle the national anthem of Romania."
Conchita starts to scan the crowd for toothless whistlers. "What if we're not lucky?" she asks, suddenly worried.
"Then it could be a guy with a fat hamster and a really bad ventriloquist act."
"Shhh, they're starting."
This is the regular Tuesday-night Bayou City Showcase, hosted by Mark Zeus of the Thunderboltz, a regular stop for singer-songwriters from around the city looking for support and a place to show off their talents. A few guitar cases are sitting by the stage; more are poking out from under the tables. Twenty, 25 people are scattered around the room, in various stages of inebriation. There's somebody's mom (looking anxious) and little brother (looking bored) sitting at a corner table. A blond who keeps almost sliding off her stool is chatting up the bartender. Next to us is a couple on what must be their first date. Given his dull-ass prattle and her marked disinterest, I'm guessing it's also going to be their last.
First up is an older guy wearing a black leather vest.
"They really pay you to do this?" Conchita asks me.
"You got a weird-ass job."
I don't argue. It is weird. I spend my workdays (and nights) trying to find singers with something new to say or a band with a fresh way of saying the same old stuff. I rarely do. Most days I'm stuck with vampire-looking rock star wannabes singing mmm-bop songs, their egos the size of a gorilla, their talent the size of a Smurf. But every once in a while, it's a good day, and I stumble onto somebody worth listening to.
I love stumbling days.
Up on stage, the old guy's not bad. He starts to sing about the dashed dreams of a failed newspaper writer, but I'm trying not to take it personally. My stomach starts to settle down -- maybe this won't be so bad. Three songs and he's done. Nothing painful so far.
"Don't laugh, he was okay," I tell Conchita, who's giggling to herself.
"What? Oh, girl, I'm watching TV," she says, pointing to two televisions suspended behind the bar. Tommy Lee is looking for the next rock star on one screen, and there's a boxing match on the other.
Up next is a good-looking beach boy. Nineteen, maybe 20 years old with baggy shorts, flip-flops, a faded T-shirt and a harmonica rig hanging around his neck. It's his mom and little brother in the corner. He slips off his shoes and starts tuning up.
"Hi, I'm Luke Boor," he says with smile. The crowd starts clapping and shouting, "Hey, Luke!"
Conchita and I look at each other -- a barefoot beach bum. My stomach starts tightening. "Hey," I tell her as he starts strumming, "every 19-year-old guy in the world wants to be a rock star, right?"
"Uh-huh," Conchita replies, eyes still glued to the TV.
"I mean, most kids just sit around, dreaming of being in a band, like they can go from playing air guitar in their bedroom to the cover of Rolling Stone."
"At least this kid is out in front of an audience, like he's supposed to be. Okay, he doesn't have on any shoes, but he's..."
Wait a minute -- the kid can play. My stomach does a little jump.
"Maybe I'm a little bit scared / Maybe I'm a little bit shy."
Hey, the kid can sing.
"I'm a little unprepared / But this feels a little bit right / Maybe you're a little bit calm / And maybe I'm a little bit not / But I know one thing is true / I'm a little bit into you."
"This is going to be the last time I see you for a while," he says. The crowd groans. "I'm moving out to Hollywood, to go to the Musicians Institute of Hollywood." Everyone claps. "I forgot to bring my CD, but I do have one. If you go to my Web site, you can..."
Conchita has abandoned the TV and is watching Boor. "He's good, huh?" she whispers.
"Yeah, actually," I whisper back. Boor starts his second song.
"I need to cha-a-a-ange / Who I am and who I'm gonna be / It's stra-a-a-ange / I can't lose my insecurities."
Conchita is tapping her foot.
"I'm realizing just where I went wrong / Maybe I've been the right person all along."
I'm tapping my foot. And smiling. Boor hits the harmonica and my smile gets bigger.
"We got lucky, huh?" says Conchita.
"Yeah, we did." Lucky to stumble onto Luke Boor, a talented, smart, good-looking kid who's doing what he's supposed to do. He's getting on stage, going to school. Playing. Writing. Singing.