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A Unique Blend of Music at Holiday Music Motel’s Writer’s Night
Without a doubt, the Holiday Music Motel is unlike any place I’ve ever been. Knowing this, I jumped at the opportunity to attend one of their exclusive “WRiTERS’NiGHTs,” an evening of open mic performances. If you are not familiar, let me fill you in on the Holiday Music Motel. This quirky, two-story motel is located just outside the heart of downtown Sturgeon Bay, within walking distance to a plethora of shops, restaurants and pubs as well as the waterfront. The Sturgeon Bay Bridge, or Michigan Street Bridge, is visible from the parking lot. This is the same bridge that inspired the creation of the annual Steel Bridge Songfest, of which the Holiday Music Motel plays a large part. What makes this motel truly special, is the infusion of music within its walls. The property plays host to collaborative songwriting retreats and houses a radio station that exclusively broadcasts music created within its own walls. Now that is something you won’t find anywhere else.
In fact, many of the local artists that play in the area will tell you that they’ve created some of their own original music after finding inspiration at the motel. Last summer, at the first concert in the park series, I distinctly remember hearing that the duo that fronts the Wifee and the Huzz Band first met and collaborated during one of the retreats at Holiday Music Motel. Apparently these retreats can lead to more than just great music!
Being the rare destination that it is, the motel also hosts a year-round, rain-or-shine open mic night for artists who are interested in playing, reciting or performing their original music, comedy or written word. Using their performance space that is located in the Tambourine Lounge, amateurs and professionals alike can test out a new tune, crack a joke or just jam for the sake of it, as long as their pieces are original. So on a very cold and quiet February evening, I popped in to see what was presenting itself.
Unfortunately for me, my timing was off. The week before was packed full of live music and entertainment thanks to the Holiday Music Motel's 'Love on Holiday' songwriting event. Forty-five musicians from all over the country showed up for a week of collaborative songwriting. Fifty new songs were penned at the event. The following week when I showed up, many performers were resting up from the previous week's event. But fortunately, the night’s host – the talented Mr. Tarl Knight – took pity at the lack of performers and took the stage for a few new songs. He had an excellent voice and performed a newly written song that reminded me of something from the Beatles’ early albums. After another lively tune, I was hooked. In between songs, I requested info on how I could hear more of his music and learned he was currently working on his first album. He said to stay tuned for a release party to be held at the Holiday Music Motel later this spring, which was where he was recording the album as well.
Myself and Lloyd, a regular attendee of WRiTERS’NiGHT and fellow music lover, tapped our toes and savored the sounds that filled the room. Speaking of, the room itself seemed to act as another character in the audience. With bright gold tinsel as the stage backdrop and red and blue lights illuminating dark corners, the room was mysterious, oddly cozy and certainly seemed like it had many interesting stories to tell. If only walls could talk!
As we wrapped up the evening and prepared to head back out into the snowy cold, I asked Tarl the purpose of the Jameson bottle fixated to a round wooden disc which sat on the bar. Here’s where things really get interesting. Apparently, if you are to attend a songwriting retreat, everyone gathers in the room and the Jameson bottle is placed in the center. Each musician gives the bottle a spin and is partnered up with another musician. The spinning goes around and around until everyone is partnered into small groups. Once designated a group, you split off and have 24 hours to create new, original music together. This happens each day for the duration of a week.
At the conclusion of the week, each group rejoins and plays what they feel is their best selections from the music they created during that 24-hour time period. Pat MacDonald is the producer and creative director orchestrating and facilitating the songwriting and performances. It is a rather impressive feat of musical talent, creativity and endurance! Even if you aren’t up for partaking, you can hear some of the tunes and witness this collaboration at retreats throughout the year, including the Steel Bridge Songfest in June, the Dark Songs retreat in fall and the Love on Holiday retreat in February. And, as always, you can drop in on any Thursday night from 8-10 PM for some live and original musical acts.
Find more places to hear live music in Door County here.
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