Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Songwriting, community & The Bazaar Cafe
The at once loose-knit but tightly networked Bay Area songwriter community can attribute much of its origin to an unassuming cafe in San Francisco's Richmond District named The Bazaar Cafe. The cafe has been the launching ground for countless new and original songs by troubadours for more than a decade and I've met many a friend and collaborator at its popular open mic. I first performed a song in public at the Bazaar and while I don't attend as much as I once did, I circle back to reconnect and hear the latest wave of output by local talent and get reinvigorated about writing songs. At once a community center, music venue and cafe, it's a brick in the foundation of the Bay Area music making community. When one of the regulars, a great local songwriter Mary Elizabeth Beckman, went missing late last week, the Bazaar grapevine quickly went into overdrive for clues. When the extremely sad news went out that "M.E" was found drowned, the songwriting community was shaken hard. "M.E." wrote tirelessly, hosted the song group for a while and had played a show at the Bazaar less than a week earlier. This wasn't out there, but one of us, and let's just say a lot of self-review has been going on. Bazaar Cafe quickly organized a memorial Tuesday night, the owner Les, 'closing' it for business, as an incredible mix of local artists filled a table with food, wine and flowers to pay tribute to Beckman. Her closest friends covered her beautiful heartfelt songs, the house sang-along to one of her favorite John Prine tunes. Many, many hugs were passed along, and many tears fell. Frequent open mic host and artist Pat Nugent spoke for many when she spoke about 'not waiting' to tell people what you think they might 'know.' As is often the case, it was another hard lesson in thinking you have all the time in the world—to say what needs to be said and acknowledge the beauty and fragility of our connections and time here. Rest in peace Mary Elizabeth. Thank you Bazaar for holding so much space for community and music ...and human heart and soul.