FYI South November, 2005
The last Tuesday of every month the upstairs of the Greek Restaurant undergoes an incredible metamorphosis—at six o’clock in the evening it’s is the same comfortable, dimly lit dining room as usual, with perhaps, a few Taiwanese diners enjoying a quiet supper. Around eight-thirty the first foreigner climbs the stairs, looks around confusedly at the diners, then at his watch, and, after realizing he’s arrived too early, he leaves. About nine o’clock he returns with a small group of his friends, purposefully enters the room, and sits at a large table in the back. This group sparks a steady stream of foreigners, gradually building to a near stampede of pale faces, khaki shorts and Birkenstock sandals. By ten o’clock a pungent mix of cigarette smoke and Mediterranean spice wafts through the air, the walls vibrate with English chatter, and every table in the room is covered in appetizers, wine, and Coronas.
Then the music starts. Solo acts and small groups take the stage one after another, playing two or three songs apiece. Nervous amateurs stutter through homemade ballads, seasoned musicians play proudly, excited for the opportunity to show off for a live audience. Good or bad, the audience always cheers, whistles, and stomps with enthusiasm. Everybody’s friends here, and nobody is going to be allowed to feel unappreciated—not at Music Night at the Greek.
Music night at the Greek was spawned from circumstances encountered by a Canadian English teacher named Kian as he searched for his place in the Tainan music scene. Kian found the Tainan music scene lacking in Western acts, so he started searching for venues where he could try out his folk-rock songs with a small live audience.
Many restaurants were interested, but wanted a large commitment. They wanted him to play for long periods of time and several times a month. As Kian put it, “I consider myself an amateur. Two hours is a long time to play.” When Kian discussed his problem with other foreign musicians, he found he wasn’t alone. He solved this problem by starting Music Night at the Greek using the North American open-mike concept.
For the uninformed, an open-mike is like a KTV with instruments instead of karaoke. Everybody comes to a certain bar on a certain night to show off his or her musical talents. Performers must sign up to play and, when his or her turn comes, play for everyone. Music Night is similar to an open mike, but more organized. Anyone can play at Music Night. The just have to sign up in advance through Kian.
Music Night has only been around for four months now, but has been a success since the beginning. The only failure, in Kian’s eyes, has been the events inability to attract Taiwanese locals. “We’d really like to see more locals come out—to watch and to play,” said Kian. “But it’s difficult to promote among locals when you don’t speak Chinese.” Kian hopes to remedy this problem, in part, through this article.