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Open Mike Schmooze

blt 04 Jan 01 - 03:48 PM
Naemanson 04 Jan 01 - 04:20 PM
mousethief 04 Jan 01 - 04:34 PM
Stewart 04 Jan 01 - 05:09 PM
Stewart 04 Jan 01 - 05:13 PM
Richard Bridge 04 Jan 01 - 05:16 PM
mousethief 04 Jan 01 - 05:33 PM
Jon Freeman 04 Jan 01 - 05:35 PM
mousethief 04 Jan 01 - 05:49 PM
paddymac 04 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM
John Hardly 04 Jan 01 - 06:18 PM
Mooh 04 Jan 01 - 07:03 PM
blt 04 Jan 01 - 07:05 PM
Sorcha 04 Jan 01 - 07:47 PM
Naemanson 04 Jan 01 - 07:50 PM
blt 05 Jan 01 - 01:55 AM
Naemanson 05 Jan 01 - 06:22 AM
Pseudolus 05 Jan 01 - 08:55 AM
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Subject: Open Mike Schmooze
From: blt
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 03:48 PM

I wrote a little bit on the folkies vs singer/songwriters thread open mikes, but I'm really curious about others' adventures with them. My own perception is that they are a very mixed bag, and my experiences range from going to the Folk City Monday Night Hoots in the early 80s to the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH to (I hope)tonight's open mike at Artichoke Music in Portland, OR, and lots of others inbetween. I tend to think of open mikes as a kind of musical alchemy, which I find much more apparent on the East Coast as the open mike "scene" drifts relatively intact from one venue to another, while on the West Coast, people seem much more spread apart. Life imitating the landscape, perhaps. In any case, what do folks think of open mikes, what are your experiences, favorite stories, and what are the regional/international differences? Just curious.
blt


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Naemanson
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 04:20 PM

Ooh, there are a lot of long stories I could relate but I don't have time right now. The short version is that the majority of my experiences have been good. More later.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 04:34 PM

Good experiences here at the Acoustic Cafe, a venue in my tiny town whose calendar consists almost entirely of open-mike nights. All sorts of different music, middle-aged, pot-bellied crooners singing cowboy blues, and fresh-faced young-uns mangling home-written acoustic pop, and weird stringy-haired just-out-of-their-teens-agers reciting death poetry, and then me, singing a mixture of traditional songs and stuff from sixties-era folkies. No booze, no tobacco, just coffee and soda and popcorn; most of the audience ignores most of the acts, talking loudly, but since I went on last the last time I was there, just after midnight, the crowd had thinned out a bunch, and they actually listened -- especially when I said I was going to sing my 2nd song a capella! After playing "Roads to Moscow" I got a request for another Al Stewart song (Nostradamus, which I don't know the chords to), so SOMEBODY was listening! I intend to do it again, and again, until I get sick of it, I suppose.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Stewart
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 05:09 PM

About a year ago I helped set up a weekly open mic and monthly acoustic concert venue in NW Seattle (Valdi's Ballard Bistro). It's a comfortable restaurant, good acoustics and atmosphere (no smoking). In a very short time it has attracted a good number of talented regulars as well as new people from time to time. Mostly singer-songwriters, some country/cowboy singers, blues singers, an occasional cabaret singer, and myself singing mostly old traditional songs (a bit of a novelty for the younger people). Lots of guitars, fewer other instruments such as my occasional fiddle. The audience is very attentive, appreciative and suportive of performers. Each performer gets about 8-10 min (two songs) and in the middle of our 2-hour evening we have a feature act (an invited regular) doing a 15-20 min set. It is becoming quite popular so that we have to turn people away as we fill up slots for the evening (have to think of a better way of allocating slots). Also would like to have a wider diversity of both vocal and instrumental music. But all-in-all it is a good experience. Every Wed, sign-up at 6:30, music starts at 7. See Victory Music

Cheers, S. in Seattle


Link fixed - JoeClone


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Stewart
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 05:13 PM

Oops, didn't do the link properly, should be Victory Music for NW Seattle open mic.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 05:16 PM

I don't smoke, but I disapprove of non-smoking venues. Exclusionist.

I tend to go early, but I disapprove of "sign-up" before the performance (for want of a better word). Same reason.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 05:33 PM

Inclusionist. Too many people can't sit for 3 hours in stale cigarette smoke. On the other hand it's easy enough to step onto the porch for a smoke, and the music is still audible.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 05:35 PM

The Llandudno Folk Club went no smoking and that was really the start of the death of the club. There were other factors but that was a big reason for a lot of discontent that ultimateley led some of us to set up other events including the still thriving Conwy Club - not to mention the Llandudno club loosing what had been a great venue for many years.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 05:49 PM

I believe the Acoustic Café has always been no-smoking. But this is probably the least-smoking part of the entire world here in Seattle, so perhaps it's less of a hardship here than in other places?

Alex


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: paddymac
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM

The smoking-non-smoking dichotomy, or its relative marketability, is, I think, very much a product of location and culture. Here is north Florida, where, as in the rest of the US, we've been bombarded by anti-smoking campaigns for 20 years or so, they don't seem to be costly at the gate. When advertized, they seem to draw some and loose some. As a performer, I don't object to "some" smoke, but in a place with poor ventilation it can build up to problem levels. Personally, I quit smoking 26+ years ago. For a while, cigaret smoke literally made me sick; now it's merely obnoxious, but denser levels do get to me. However, I sure enjoy sitting "down-wind" of somebody else's good cigar or pipe.

I get the impression that the anti-smoking canpaign is just now begining to really catch on in parts of Europe. I think that Alex has the right spin - it's easy enough to step out on the porch or deck for a smoke. Polite, as well.

As to sign-ups and other management devices, they're a mixed bag, and largely depend on, but also determine, the success of the session. Personally, I support the events as way for newer performers of all ages to gain exposure and experience, but there are limits as to what you can reasonably expect an audience to tolerate. That's where "management" comes in. There is some vague, hard-to-define threshhold of "entertainment value" that hopefuls should surpass. That threshhold seems to rise as a particular event becomes more established. Some places have done a "first-timers only" segment early in the evening, with more "experienced" folks later on. I guess it pretty much a perogative of the management and local customs. Just remember: everybody's gotta start somewhere, somehow.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: John Hardly
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 06:18 PM

..I'm sorry. I stumbled in here accidentally. I was looking for the thread about open mike stories (As I'm about to participate in my first). I'll keep looking.

JH


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Mooh
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 07:03 PM

It makes me profoundly sad that I can't enjoy musical occasions because of secondhand smoke. There have been many events, casual and otherwise, which I haven't been able to enjoy because of an increasing intolerance. I guess it's my fate, though I do try to get around it as much as I can. However, watering eyes and irritated throat and nose (and lungs) are too much to pay for the privelege of playing as I'd like.

That said, I have had some pretty cool jams happen at open mic style gatherings. Played bass all afternoon and into the evening for several old time style musicians. Mostly songs I'd never played before. It seems they'd not been used to having a bass player around. Another time I was invited to play mandolin for a set with a singer/songwriter and she graciously let me take lots of solos. Based on those and other experiences, it appears to me that different instrumentation can be a welcome addition to the proceedings. It seems to me that people are generally open-minded and curious about open mics when they accidentally encounter them. Not everyone wants to listen to a human juke-box all the time, or a mechanical one.

Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: blt
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 07:05 PM

This IS a place for open mike stories, so you weren't in the wrong place, JH, if you happen to look back. I hoped that folks would talk about both the management issue (which is often part of the story) as well as personal adventures.
When I first began playing at the Folk City Hoots, Folk City was in its last years (although I didn't know it at the time). Open mike slots were determined by drawing from a pack of cards. I used to be puzzled by the fact that one Suzanne Vega constantly drew the coveted 9:00pm spot while I was just as constantly playing to 3 grizzled drunks at 2:00am. As a young folksinger/songwriter, I was awed to be playing in a place that had so much history as far as the NY folk scene went. However, by 1980, that scene had long gone. The only remnant were the grizzled drunks, who would sit next to me at the bar and tell about the time they heard "Bobbie" sing...and the photos circling the walls.
I still get more nervous playing at an open mike than I did playing a full concert, partly because I often don't know when I'm going to play. I end up waiting for my name to be pulled out of a hat, which seems to be the most popular form of scheduling. At Fire and Water in Northampton, Ma, which has a very eclectic open mike (but no mike--the place is so small, you don't need a PA), musicians sign-up ahead of time then their names are called at random. I did play at Victory Music's open mike once in the late 80s, I think there was a sign-up sheet and a cut-off process of some kind. This was when the open mike sessions were broadcast live over the local public radio station.
I also managed an open mike for women performers only, on Thursday nights at Zoo Zoos, in Eugene, OR (it went out of business by 1985). This specialty pissed a lot of men off and they weren't shy about letting me know. What seemed to really bother them is that I kept the stage dark when no women showed up to play, as a way to remember and honor the struggles women musicians have had. Seems like I was always in some heated argument with some guy over this.
I agree that new singers/musicians need a place to play, but I've also found that open mikes are a way I can continue to play, meet other musicians, be around other musicians, especially as I've turned toward a non-musical trade in order to make a living. I don't know if I will ever complete a CD of my own work but I really like to perform, so open mikes will just have to do for right now.
peace, blt


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Sorcha
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 07:47 PM

I smoke, and I know it's a nasty habit, and don't mind going outside to do it. Not a problem.
I don't like "sign up sheets", but I don't know of a better way to fix the "Mic Hog" thing.
I've only been to a couple of Open Mike things, and didn't like them.......trying to figure out why.

I guess it is the "organized" attitude......THIS person and ONLY THIS person (or group) gets to play.....I am used to everybody joining in if they know the tune/song, and chording/chopping if not..........I guess I don't like being in the audience at a "jam session".....does that make sense?


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Naemanson
Date: 04 Jan 01 - 07:50 PM

Open mike stories! Yeah, I've got a few. I started attending the Side Door Coffeehouse in 1994. I became a member, organizer, and partner in it around 1996. that is a story in and of itself. If you aren't cautious these things will suck you in and consume you.

Early on we couldn't get much in the way of performers. quite often it would be up to me, my girlfriend and one or two others to carry the burden. Over the years we grew into one of the finest coffeehouses around.

Last year my girlfriend and I broke up and she kept the coffeehouse. I found that losing her and the coffeehouse was too much so I started my own in a neighboring town. The Mocha Cafe is now where we were with the Side Door back in 1994. I hope it will grow.

The format for both is the same. There is an open mike followed by a featured performer. At the Side Door the hard and fast rule is that the featured performer must have played the open mike. They only broke that rule once and that was when Gordon Bok was the feature.

Mocha is more relaxed. I would like to draw my featured performers from the open mike but I don't want to close the doors on anyone.

Stories... There is always a problem with time. We give the performmers 8 minutes or two songs. If the performers are quick then you can hear up to 10 people before the break. If they all sing long songs or take too long to set up then you may only get 8 people up there. There is at least one person in town who is still mad at us because we didn't enforce the 8 minute rule and he ended up missing his chance. I guess he figured we shuld have a big hook and we should yank people off of the stage at the 8 minute mark.

Another time we had a bunch of high school kids show up with a drum set and electric bass. We let them set up to go first so we didn't have to worry about setup AND tear down during that crucial time slot. They called themselves Pod V and played a very passable jazz. Their trademark was the sax player who wore two saxes, tenor and baritone, around his neck and played them both in a song, one at a time, switching them as the mood moved him.

Then there was the time I got to the coffeehouse to find an entire rock band setting up on the stage with amps, cords, electric guitars, drums, a keyboard, bass guitar, mikes, etc. I explained they would only get two songs and that they would have to connect through my board rather than use their own sound system. I also explained that the room is very "live" and didn't need much sound to drive it. They explained that they were a quiet band. Well, they were neither quiet or good. And when they were done they packed up and left. They did not hang around to enjoy the other performers nor did they do anything else to support the coffeehouse.

Outnumbering the negative stories are the ones where someone climbs on to the stage, nervous, knees knocking together, and then proceeds to play or sing something that just slays the audience. Or the little kids who get up there to play their recorde or flute. At times like that the audience leans into the piece and becomes part of it. You can hear a pin drop and when the kid finishes the crowd erupts in cheers and applause.

One night three women met at the coffeehouse and began to talk in earnest. Then they went outside. They came back in and signed up to sing a song together and that was the beginning of Other Voices. They sang in such beautiful harmonies and with such haunting ethreal quality that we hired them on the spot for a featured position.

One night there was a chorus of women, with stong feminist songs and ATTITUDE. The audience was full of women who sat together holding hands with tears in their eyes. Then at the end one of the audience members announced that a good friend of a majority of the group had been burned out of her home by an accidental house fire and that her pet had been killed in the blaze. That night I witnessed the largest group hug I have ever seen. Unfortunately I felt very excluded. It was probably my imagination.

I love it. I sit there at the sound board each month, look at how much the people are enjoying the show and it makes me feel all warm and good. If you don't go to open mikes on a regular basis you should have your heads examined. If you do go, and the experience is bad, then you should start your own.

Whew, I could go on but I have to go fix the dryer so I can get some laundry done.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: blt
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 01:55 AM

Naemanson, many thanks for your stories and for your faith in open mikes. I came to realize after a while that what I really loved about open mikes the most was not performing in them but watching the night unfold in this incredible pantheon of musicians. They weren't necessarily incredible musicians, in fact most performers aren't, but that doesn't seem to matter. I like the lack of pretension, the range of songs and styles, and I even like the reeeeeeeeallly long Grateful Dead covers. One guy at an open mike I was at, I can't remember where, played his trash. Thanks again. blt


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Naemanson
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 06:22 AM

Yeah, I've heard a lot of really poor musicians but even they add to the open mike experience. What they are doing is giving it their best and opening their hearts to the rest of us. And there has never been an instance of heckling or derision from the audience in all the years I have done this.


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Subject: RE: Open Mike Schmooze
From: Pseudolus
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 08:55 AM

For years I was either performing at an open mike or I wasn't performing at all. I didn't know enough songs from beginning to end to do anything else. It was at an Irish Pub on the last Thursday of the month and it got to the point that they had to limit the time for people to make sure everybody got a chance. As I was reading this thread, I realized that several of my closest friends are people I met at open mike night! The pub stopped open mike night for a long time cause it seemed to die out for a while but they recently brought it back and now I am hosting them occasionally when they happen to fall on the weekends that I am booked there. Kinda full circle huh?

Frank


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