For 10 years the open-mic Tongue: Open Mouth and Music Show has been held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the Sentient Bean. Melanie Goldey is the host of this spoken word/live-painting/stand-up comedy/anything goes event, and she wants the public to know she didn't give the show its name.
“It’s totally confusing and hard to find online,” Goldey said. “I didn’t name it. I took over for Zach Powers. I’m not sure when I took over, but I think five years ago.”
The founder, Rushelle Frazier, passed it onto Powers and when he first tried passing it onto Goldey, she declined.
“I used to come out here,” she said motioning to the stage, “and just shake before performances. So to take it over, I thought no, I couldn’t do it, then he asked again six months later. I took him up on it.”
In the five or so years that Goldey has hosted Tongue, it's grown as a community and become a birthplace for many local performers. Prominent Savannah musicians who had their first performances at Tongue include Lady Valore and Phillip Wise. Other performers include local comedienne MK Smith, Program Manager Maria Zoccola from Deep Center and author Kimberly Evans before she passed.
“She would do these erotic, bloody, intense narratives, but looked really unassuming,” Goldey recalled. “She wore glasses, was a silver fox and used a cane.”
Evans’ died abruptly after contracting a rare illness. It was unexpected, and her absence was felt. Goldey began planning a memorial event where performers could talk about Evans’ contributions to the show, but before the memorial something serendipitous happened.
Goldey was doing a comedy set across town when a woman approached her, complimenting her material. The woman mentioned she was in town handling her mother’s estate and Goldey realized she was Evans’ daughter.
“I told her I’m organizing a memorial for your mother next week, if you’re still in town and I put the word out that Kim’s daughter was coming,” Goldey said. “She came out and read some of Kim’s work. One of our poets made a portrait of Kim and gave it to her. Tears were everything.”
It’s these types of chance encounters, the vulnerability and courage of each performer and the warmth of the audience that makes Tongue magical, if you ask Goldey. Magic aside, the upkeep of the show’s social media and bi-monthly hosting is a lot of unpaid labor. Goldey has considered passing the torch like the hosts before her, but she isn’t ready just yet.
“It’s a roller coaster... but it's my baby,” she said. “Who do I give it to that’s going to care for it?”
She hopes in the meantime Tongue can grow into a poetry feature show for traveling slam poets or a performance competition, like CUPSI.
“We could have a tongue cup,” she said. “Imagine kids around here being able to see poets... like Andrea Gibson or Rudy Francisco or Neil Hilborn. Maybe they come to the South, but they don’t come here. The closest is going to be Atlanta.”
Goldey is right. Savannah is missing on most tour circuits, despite its solid arts community. The opportunity to see nationally-acclaimed poets is only possible to those who can afford to travel. It’s lucky there are some stellar performers at Tongue: Open Mouth and Music show.
“I think it’s Savannah’s best open mic, and I’m not just saying that because I’m the host,” Goldey said with a smile.