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Open mics a great place to fight stage fright and play with others

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What with  downloading and  numerous ways to access music for free online, playing live is a musician’s bread and butter. But when you have horrible stage fright not to mention a notoriously bad memory  for my own lyrics and guitar licks, facing an audience is a challenge. So I made it my goal this year to play more in public.Some dude name Richard trying to play an open mic. Photo by Dean Wilson
So, being an up and coming performing musician trying to overcome stage fright, I thought I’d try to hit every single open mic in a week. Pretty much every day of the week open mics provide an opportunity for up and coming musicians to test their live chops and get over stage fright and experienced musicians looking to play with and meet other musicians. They come out in force and there is a completely different crowd out to each open mic.

 Sunday: My adventure started at the Sandman Inn with the very first open mic there at the lounge next to the Denny’s,  Feb. 9.
Jon Vornbrock, who plays guitar with the Void and the Phantom Creeps started this up.
“It’s something to do on a Sunday. They were looking for someone to host the open mic and approached me,” Vornbrock said, who knew management through his day job.
He has also played at Henotic’s Wednesday open mic a few times as well as the Slice’s Tuesday open mic.
“(Open mics) are a little more relaxed. And you’re a little more free to play what you want,” he continued adding playing with a band is a little more structured.  I played a pretty classical piece I wrote which I dug up for Henotic’s open mic the week before and try singing a couple others.

Monday: The 1010 Pub’s open mic this week is hosted by Taylor Ackerman and Ryan Dyck of Treeline. I played a couple of my own blues songs because Taylor offered to add some sweet pedal steel guitar to them. They went over well  as well as a complicated folk song and another which which I try to play at this open mic, every time I play it. Paul Kype and Greg Gomola, who often host this open mic were there , though don’t play this time, along with Jenn Pellerin and some other talented performers.  Performers usually get to play longer at the 1010 open mic  partially because there aren’t as many performers as some of the other ones.
Ackerman likes the fact that open mics give musicians a chance to play other musicians.
“The appeal of them is if you’re an up and coming musician, it gives you a chance to  play with other musicians. Plus you only need to know three or four songs. And the audiences are more forgiving,”  said Ackerman, who also hosts open stages at the Slice periodically.
This is something I’m starting to notice. So far nobody seems to mind if you forget your song and start again and they applaud  afterward.

 Tuesday: The Slice. Paul Kype was hosting this one this week. It  was billed as a  blues jam but attracted several different types of bands including garage rock and metal as well as local progressive rock trio Lustre Creame and some new people I hadn’t heard before. They were only just getting underway by the time I showed up just after 10:30 p.m.. I signed up but there were 10 people ahead of me and I was losing my energy around 12:30 a.m. The Slice’s open mic is almost always well attended, especially when Paul Kype is playing. Treeline hosting an open mic at the 1010 Pub. Photo by Richard Amery


Wednesday: Henotic is best one so far. I follow Jenn Pellerin with three of my own songs.  Because there are so many performers who sign up, sets are limited to three songs each. I start with a drinking song I wanted to play the previous week, but wasn’t able to fit it in. But I play a new one  and a really cool one  of  which I even remember all of the words too, for the first time ever. Henotic audiences are the most open to weird and unusual music. There are a couple heavy rock bands, ‘Done of the Dead’ and other one featuring bassist Dan Espelien who plays with several different bands. They  also played the night before at the Slice, whihc is unusaully, as generally there isn’t a lot of overlap between the crowds or performers at each open mic, though local musician Andrea Nickorick is also playing most of them this week.
Thursday night  there are two open mics. Local country duo Tom and Curt are at Front Row, I don’t play there as they are an older crowd and mostly play covers of old country. Tom and Curt have been hosting an open mic  at the Front Row for the past three years whenever they have a weekend gig there.
Tom Price of Tom and Curt at the Front Row Pub. Photo by Richard Amery“We get maybe five to 10 people who come out. It’s pretty much the same crowd every time,” said Tom Price, who has been playing with Curt  since 1970-71, which means they have learned a vast repertoire of songs and  can play along with pretty much anyone who comes on stage. And it’s an older crowd.
“It’s not like were attracting a lot of 19-25-year-olds,” he said.
“It’s not really about original music here,”  Price observed, waiting for his band mates by playing a solo set of old style country music.
“Some of  them (the performers) are god-awful but we try to encourage just about everybody.”
I go to Beaches” new Thursday open mic. It’s a blue collar north side bar which has  a variety of student aged people there it for the open mic, hosted by Necessities drummer Thomas Woodman and Double Jack bassist Luke Bruce. Most of the people are playing rock covers, some Pearl Jam and Dennis Leary. Surprisingly, I’m on second, because the Necessities’ Devin Gergel gives me his spot and lends me his guitar as he wants to play last. It’s not enough time for me to gauge the audience and I get bad case of the nerves for playing in front of a completely new audience, so I play a couple of my alcohol  related songs and an instrumental version of  one I played a couple nights ago. I think I play “god-awful”  but I’m also my own worst critic. They applaud anyway even though a spill a beer all over the stage. Luckily performers get a free drink so I claim mine and sit down to hear some more local talent.

Friday: The Folk Club hosts an open mic  every  second and fourth Friday of the month. It is generally the most supportive audience in town.  Alot of local performers including Shaela Miller, Amy Bronson and  John Wort Hannam, got their start at the Folk Club. Two Spirit Sage usually plays there and local country musician Karen Romanchuk is a regular there as well as bluesman Leon Barr. But then they are there to listen to you, rather than to be drunk and distracted by their friends like at many of the other open mics. So that can be a bit disconcerting. This week there is a a surprisingly low turnout of seven people, maybe because of the long weekend and the opening of the Olympics. There is one loud, enthusiastic drunk in the audience, unusual for a folk club audience. He gets up and sings a Charlie Daniels’ song “Simple Man.”

  I play three songs on a borrowed guitar including a decent version of the one I played on Monday as well as one of my alcohol related songs and try to play a new one, which went over really well at Henotic’s open mic on Wednesday, unfortunately I  forget the melody and the words.
 A new open mic on Fridays is at the Bar One  in the Sandman Inn. The Phantom Creeps host this unplugged open mic, though they had Planet Telex in while they were on tour this past week. Though it wasn’t this week where I played every one, I got dragged up on stage for it a couple Fridays ago. Not a good choice after a couple pints like I had through the night. But they’re pretty forgiving and besides, most of them had left by the time I got up there. I played one song, forgot the lyrics and made it through parts of six of them. I think I’ll start calling that type of performance the King Richard medley.


Saturday The longest standing open mic in the city is a Saturday afternoon open mic at the Coal Banks Inn. Whenever they have a band playing the weekend, they also host a the afternoon jam. They don’t have one this particular week.

A version of this column appears in the March 2010 edition of Bridge Magazine.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 28 March 2010 17:41 )  
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