I went to an Open Mic last night. It was well-attended with about 15 performers and perhaps 25 others in the pub. There was a bit more chatter that you'd get at a normal Folk Club, but in general, if a performer and/or song was interesting, everyone would quieten down and listen. There was a great mix of ages from late teens to 70s.
Now at an Open Mic, the expectation seems to be a mix of singer-songwriters performing their own songs, usually introspective and often self-indulgent/ angst-ridden, plus people playing covers of well-known rock or pop songs. This one was different though. We had, in addition to the usual crop of guitars, a melodeon, banjo, mandolin and fiddle, all brought along by unconnected individuals.
I did 3 songs: one a traditional folk song with guitar accompaniment (plus bass and sensitive percussion on the side); one a Tom Paxton song (it having been his 80th birthday on Monday), again with some additional accompaniment from the bass, percussion and 2 lovely female voices joining in from the floor, and one an unaccompanied contemporary song "in the folk style" about the life-cycle of the hop.
A couple of the self-penned songs from other performers were "as expected" from an Open Mic, but several were humorous, and a couple were modern protest songs. Two other performers sang unaccompanied....one did so for all 3 songs in his set, including a trad ballad with chorus. The melodeon player did 2 Morris tunes and a reel.
Talking to some of the younger people there, who had expected the night's offerings to be a bit different, they were really enthusiastic and positive and said it was the best Open Mic they'd been to for ages despite the content diverging from normal expectations. They danced (though not anything recognisably a traditional form!) to the melodeon, and joined in with the chorus of the trad ballad and the "hop song" that I sang. They certainly didn't moan about it "not being a proper Open Mic", and were hoping that there'd be a similar "unusual mix" at the next one.
Which strikes me as a much more positive attitude than that exhibited by some of the people decrying the observation that many Folk Clubs haven't remained pickled in aspic for the last 60 years. For several of the attendees it was the first time they'd been exposed to traditional folk songs and tunes. The atmosphere there was wonderful!