Guest Blog: The Lion and the Pirate: A Community

Eric Clow
VSA Texas

April 12, 2016
Originally posted April 7, 2016 at Reposted with permission. Photos courtesy of Malvern Books.

From the side, a trio of male musicians are set up in a corner with wood paneling. One sits and plays a guitar, another sits in a power chair with his hands on a laptop, and a third stands to play a snare drum.In February of 2014, I was terrified of playing my songs in front of people. Sure, I would daydream about it and spend hours playing chords, writing lyrics, watching performances of my heroes, but I had made no efforts to take the tunes out of my living room.

Fortunately, something came along that shook up my little world of comfort. It was the Lion and Pirate open mic at Malvern Books, conveniently located just two blocks away from the living room where my songs had been confined for the last several years. 

This open mic was co-hosted by VSA Texas and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ Pen to Paper Writing Contest, and what set it apart from the dozens of other Austin open mics was that it was completely accessible. The door was open. The crowd was friendly. The stage was spacious and level with the audience. It was here, in February of 2014, that I performed my songs live for the first time in more than four years and that Dude Choir, the collective of myself and a rotating cast of dudes (i.e., my musical attendants who have also become great friends), made its debut appearance. (Above: Myself in the latest incarnation of Dude Choir playing at the second anniversary of the open mic.)

Since then I have played the Lion and Pirate at least a dozen times with different dudes and different songs. When I think about my most recent musical accomplishments – playing a set at the Our Lives Conference in El Paso or recording and releasing my own CD – I realize they would not have been possible without the support I have received from this humble open mic. To me, it's not just an open mic. It's a highlight of each month. It's motivation to keep creating.

A group of five older men play instruments, sing, and look at sheet music in a wood-paneled room. When asked about the open mic, the Old Hats' (left) John Meinkowsky said, "We love everything about the Lion and the Pirate. Great location, great hosts, great audience. And Malvern Books puts a super high quality video on YouTube." 

Frequent performer Bear Beam said of the open mic, "The energy there is very open. I feel inspired by the diversity of the performers there. Everyone pushes everyone up."

Laura Perna of CTD, our partner in making the Lion and Pirate a reality, describes how much the open mic has grown and become an important part of many of our lives:

"These days, when I arrive at Malvern, people that I've never met are already there, waiting for the show to start; performers are setting up; the space is filling with conversations and laughter. And once we get going, the show runs way past our allotted hour. J-Bo, a member of The Old Hats (by now a staple at the Lion and Pirate), summarized this transition best: 'this is turning into a community.' It's more than the stories that people come to tell, sing, recite, or even express without words; it's that we're all there, listening to each other together."


So come on down and join our community! Email to get on our email list or attend our next open mic (see right-hand side bar for dates) at Malvern Books, 613 West 29th Street in Austin.


About Eric

A man in sunglasses smiles at the camera with a sweeping desert landscape in the background.Since his childhood, Eric Clow has been passionate about film. He started making short documentaries in high school. His award-winning short film, It’s Just Us: Taking a Stand While Sitting Down, focused on the struggles of the disability rights movement. In 2011, Eric graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in Geography, but he also received extensive training in film production, film editing, screenwriting, and radio programming. Eric's passions still reside in the arts, and he spends his time writing, making music, and constantly seeking new films to enjoy. He currently works at VSA Texas. He has served as a judge of our Cinema Touching Disability Short Film Competition for three years and is a frequent performer at the Lion and Pirate open mic.

< Last: Guest Blog: Poetic Activism Next: Guest Blog: For All the Writers Out There >

Pen 2 Paper mailing list

Sign up to receive periodic news and announcements from Pen 2 Paper.

Subscribe now!