by Malka Herman
The Hott Spott Lounge is located in a dimly lit strip mall in Mt. Vernon. Inside, the bar is empty and I consider going home. But the owner tells me that this is the longest running poetry venue in the country and I am intrigued, so I stay for the experience.
Soon the bar fills up. It is apparent from the screams and embraces that these are regulars, returning to the weekly open mic night known as “Warm Wednesdays.” Any skepticism over our setting or frustration from a long wait disintegrates as the host, Walt, grins and shimmies around the stage. “Warm Wednesdays is all about the loooove,” he croons. Walt lives up to his title of host by making us all feel like we’ve stepped into his house and become part of the family. He quips about his age, sexual prowess (“Have you ever had your knees fucked out of you?”), and love of the two-step. The more outrageous his comments, the more we laugh.
The acts that resonate most are raw and personal. Adeke “Mama” Rose is grey-haired and on crutches. When she says the line, “Paying hundreds to make your body shine/What are you doing to enhance your mind?” it doesn’t matter that I am young and white in a room of older black Baltimoreans—we all nod together. I know I will return to this space where I am surrounded by the same people I might have once avoided making eye contact with on city buses. In this dimly lit nightclub, we laugh together at Walt and snap our fingers when Grace the Poet says, “Fuck, this feels more like stuck.” I will return because I already feel a part of this mismatched, brutally honest group of writers and performers. One day I may even take the stage.
Every family has a few black sheep. A group of young men calling themselves “Sith Lord Judas” sing while swinging light sabers and the result is more comical than meaningful. A comedian named “Think Wise” makes a few funny jokes but they don’t fit with the intimate spirit of the evening. However, even these acts echo the true purpose of Warm Wednesdays: giving people a platform to be heard, not judged.
We all listen as a woman announces it is her first time at Warm Wednesdays. While her poem is technically not as skilled as some of the others, her topic of rape stands out as the most memorable of the evening. As Walt says afterward, “Sometimes it’s easier to say things in front of a crowd than one person.”
The Hott Spott
830 Guilford Avenue
Doors open at 8, show starts 9:30(ish)
$5 cover before 10 pm, $10 after
Malka Herman is a Baltimore based writer with an unhealthy interest in music, theater, and art that makes her uncomfortable.