Tonight the venerable JJ Schultz will be doffing the mantle of Host of the most popular (and best) open mic in the Bay Area, the Hotel Utah on Monday nights. There’s not a lot I can say in tribute to the man that hasn’t already been said, but I’d like to write a few words anyway expressing my appreciation for all that he’s done for the local music scene.
I first came to the Utah in September 2009. While my general impression after my first visit was that the talent was of a generally higher caliber at the Utah, no one performing that night impressed me more than JJ. He played “Someone Who’s Not Me”, and everything about it floored me: the sparse, lilting feel of the guitar part, the deceptive distance of the second-person voice in the lyrics, and most of all his trembling, haunted voice. I looked forward to seeing him perform every week, and generally came to look up to him as a sort of father figure in the scene. I was elated when he asked me to be the first featured performer of 2010, which marked a great beginning to an amazing, fulfilling year in music for me. It was a huge rite-of-passage moment for me starting to feel like “I’m making a name for myself, I could actually get somewhere with this.” I know it’s the same for a lot of other folks too.
JJ is expert at deflecting compliments and downplaying the tremendous amount of work he puts in at the Utah on a weekly basis. I once heard him remark to someone that the site was a lot of work to set up but now ‘kind of runs itself’, when I know there’s no way it takes any less than at least a few hours each week to chop up and tag over five hours of recordings. For all of us in this community who become successful, however we might define it, I think these recordings will be a truly priceless document. For me, theutah.org is a better journal than this blog will probably ever be. As for how great the Utah is as a whole, he’ll probably want to defer credit to all the musicians who come week after week, and those who came before him, and of course he’s mostly right. But with the exceptions of the wonderfully talented Slim Critchlow and Bridget Canfield, nobody else recognized the magic and potential in the scene and then made such an enormous investment of time, talent, love and MONEY fer chrissakes to turn a great open mic into an invaluable resource for budding songwriters.
Though I know Brendan Getzell will do a great job as host and eventually fill out the shoes quite well, I will miss JJ running the show a lot. I’ll miss his good humor and “Ahhhhh…”s, his quizzical looks or appreciative nods after hearing a new song for the first time, him telling some douchey heckler, “I invite you to get the fuck out of here.” I hope having his Monday nights freed up lets him get some good rest and gives him more time to spend with his kiddo, his day job, and whatever else he cares about more than all of us. Kidding, JJ! Seriously though, I have only one demand in order to honor your departure, and that is that you put out another album already. Give the people what they want.
Much love and respect, buddy. Also, if I fuck up your song tomorrow because I stayed up too late on the interwebs, I’m sorry.