Open Mic Night!

Posted on September 3, 2010

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Before I get on to the article – here’s the website link: http://www.openmikes.org

You’ve heard about open mic nights and maybe thought – Why would I go up there and play with a bunch of talentless hacks who have to cover someone else’s songs in a coffee shop? Well, someone said that to me once, I had to chuckle. He was a hack!

Here’s a chance to test the water on a new piece you have inside your head and see how it grabs the average listener. Like Lemmie from Motorhead said, “Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes!”  Chances are, you might cut down a lot of stress in that new song you’ve been working on. It might be a gem as is, or you might find you’ve been heading in the wrong direction with it. A general audience response is a great way to find out.

So, what is an open mic then? Most often it’s a hosted evening on a small riser or in the corner of an open lounge that has a microphone and a pair of PA speakers. That’s about it. You won’t get a chance to cover that Fates Warning song you learned, but you will get an intimate response from a smaller crowd. Stripped down, it’s going to most likely be you, the song and the crowd. Just bare bones talent … or lack there-of. I’ve heard a few doosies at open mics, but there’s something you have to respect about it. They got up there and did it!

Some open mics operate by a draw method. If the list of potential performers is long, you might put your name in a hat and play when it’s drawn. Usually a short set of three songs, maybe 15 minutes to shine. The draw method works well because the usual characters that show up weekly don’t get the prime slot; they get up there when they’re called up. Plan to stay a while as most hosts stick to the rules and you might not get called up for a while.

Common politeness is a must! Many open mic nights feaure local musicians who have reduced career potentials to writing in the basement and performing that 15 minutes a week. You might have a career outside of that little bar where you play for 500 people a night, but for many, this is their forum. When they put their personal passions into that song, they get off that stage and feel like they just performed for a crowd of 10,000. These small environments are that intimate and yes, that personal. Your best bet is to applaud anyone who plays and shake hands with a positive smile and response. For some, it takes every gut they have to play for 30 people. Treat them like a superstar, they’ll stick around to do the same for you and you’ll make a great friend at the same time.

The website link that I began the article with is a website that features links to open mic nights all over the country. From the front page you can type in your zip code and find open mics within any radius of your location, 5 miles to 100 miles away. Research the types of open mic that it is. Comedy, poetry and music often overlap and some acoustic clubs mix the style of performance together. You might follow a poet or you may get to join other musicians on stage. It’s always good to know a couple of standards in case you get an opportunity to join in on stage. It’s not unheard of to bring your own instrument, in fact – I recommend it. Some clubs even have a small drum kit in the backline. Bring a couple guys from the band and at the very least – you’ll be subject to an evening of new music that might inspire your own work.

Once more, please remember decorum. Someone once said to me that saying the words I Love You to a woman is the hardest thing you can possibly do. I beg to differ. Putting the emotion that made you say those words into a song and sharing it with a few dozen strangers sitting in front of you is much harder.

Knock ‘em dead kids!

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