Stories, neat: Moth story slam at Cliff Bell’s

Arts / Article

True story: I got in a fight with my significant other right before The Moth event at Cliff Bell’s this Thursday night. Not a big, life-ending fight, but enough of one so that if there had been any chance before of going to The Moth together, it most certainly wasn’t happening now. That’s how I ended up at The Moth alone, contemplating the possibility of adding my name to the bag full of brave souls, all prepared or preparing to be one of the 10 courageous attendees allotted 5 minutes to tell a story expounding on this month’s theme: Silver Lining.

I would argue that there exists within human nature a tendency to hearken back to forgotten eras; if not a universal trait, certainly one alive and well in the soul of this Detroiter. When I consider the endless appeal of The Moth StorySlam, a nationwide “happening” since 1997 and a perennial favorite at Cliff Bell’s every first Thursday of the month for going on four years, it occurs to me that its appeal is rooted in its ability to connect with something long-forgotten and fundamental about human society. Storytelling, after all, used to be one of the primary forms of entertainment available, and nothing brings humans from divergent walks of life together faster than the disclosure of a true story, shared from personal experience.

That this throwback form of entertainment takes place within Cliff Bell’s opulent 1930’s jazz club trappings is as fitting as it is glamorous, and it should be noted that Cliff Bell’s is relentlessly self-improving and more beautifully appointed every time I visit. Perhaps capitalizing on The Moth’s ability to draw revelers in groups of 8 to 10, the seating has been adjusted to accommodate bigger parties, and leave less folks packed and stranded in the aisles (although perhaps attendance was dampened by the Tigers season opener, which rain-checked the event from its usual time slot).

Spoiler alert: I didn’t put my name in the running. I do not consider myself to be a great storyteller. It would make for a better story if I had gotten up there, maybe even won the whole shebang, but as host Alex Trajano —popular voice personality for proud Moth sponsor WDET (101.9 FM) — helpfully outlined in his opening remarks, stories told have to be believable. Also good to keep in mind for novice storytellers — stories should have a beginning, middle and an end, and most importantly, they should have a point.

Of the divergent subjects covered in the evening’s program, with stories ranging from the silver lining to being a bad father, to the near-death shenanigans involved in de-impounding a car in Southside Chicago, the silver lining for me was delivered by the first storyteller of the evening, Woodhaven resident Justin Clark, who waxed philosophic on the bright side of taking a header down a flight of stairs, “If you go into every situation with the intention of trying to make it better, you can make a silver lining of the darkest storm cloud.”

Shine on, Moth. You can tell your own tale at the regular monthly Moth events at Cliff Bell’s — or catch Moth luminaries at the next upcoming Moth Main Stage event.

All photos by Sarah Sharp.

Cliff Bell’s: 2030 Park Ave., 313-961-2543.