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What makes a GREAT open mike night?

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(@mattguitar_1567859575)
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Joined: 20 years ago
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I am fascinated by this. The concept of a place where people turn up and play and sign and pther listen and have a beer. Sounds great.

Unfortunately i have never been to one, not even to listen.

So I am after opinions, what makes a really good open mike night.

Specifically -

The venue - what should it be like?
The equipment - does the venue provide mikes etc?
Does size matter?

Anyone who's ever been to one, good OR bad, please share experiences.

Thanks a lot, in advance. Please give me everything you've got on this subject. Think of it as payback for my hours sweating on the Easy Song Database!

cheers

Matt


   
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 Moai
(@moai)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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It depends. Open mikes are dangerous business.

The best venue I've found is a brew-pub or a neighborhood bar. The people are more receptive, and the talent is usually of higher quality. Plus as the evening goes on the participants start playing together! Very fun.

The worst is a coffeehouse, like a local version of Starbuck's. More pretense, less talent, and more bad poetry mixed in with the guys who think they are the next Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan. Not my scene.

Size doesn't matter! Good night, enjoy the veal!8) Actually, too small is uncomfortable and too big is meaningless. The best size is a venue that holds a hundred or so people, at the biggest. Less than twenty is way too small.

Every place I've been provides mikes, and that's it. So bring your own stack if you're going to rock!!!! :D

You should go, and play. It's always nice to hear a guitar rather than yet another guy who thinks he's funny (ugh), or the next Sylvia Plath. But hey, at least they are trying! Crowds are always polite at every one I've been to, which speaks well of people.

Have fun!

Bettie Page is the most beautiful woman who ever lived. You better recognize, G!


   
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(@gnease)
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On the performance side: It's all about connecting to the audience, not impressing them. A simple, reasonably popular tune or catchy original done earnestly and well beats out a "performance masterpiece" every time. Simpler pieces also tend to take the pressure off the performer, and free him/her up to have fun.

Setting: It's less about the venue (pub, coffeehouse) than the crowd that hangs there. Not every coffeehouse is the same. Ditto for pubs.

-=tension & release=-


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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I've been to many open mics as a listener never as a performer and I've found that everyone is different.

I'm not sure if there is necessary a formula for what works and what doesn't. I've been at open mics of varying venue sizes and various talent levels and some were good and some not so good.

There is one particular club in CT that I used to go to that really has a great open mic. Sunday's is electric open mic and Monday's are acoustic open mic but the level of musicianship is amazing, alot of guys/girls playing in local bands will come and jam. Jaimo from the Allman Brothers plays there sometimes. It's a very musical savvy crowd which makes it great, the club is initmate which also helps, but it would not be a place for the "newbie" to play. This is really an open mic for experienced players but I've seen some great performances there, including some show off stuff too.

I have also been to many other open mics where newbies are more "welcome" for lack of a better term. Most of these were OK for the most part, nothing really bad or good.

If you are planning on playing at one I would suggest you go check it out a couple times and see how things go to get a feeling if it's a place you'd want to play.

A buddy of mine were going to play at a local place until we went there and was told they really wanted acoustic type songs...we were rock that mutha out with some Clash etc.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@noteboat)
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I haven't played open mics in a long time, but I used to do them pretty regularly.

From the performing side, a good open mic has an audience that's there to listen. The chance to hear something good and new is the draw... not the coffee or conversation.

From the audience side, a good open mic has a variety of music you haven't heard before, and some/most of it is pretty good stuff. It's a chance to catch people you might be hearing more from in the years to come.

Most of the really good ones I've been to seat <100 as Moai pointed out. The best acoustic ones I've been to were at coffeehouses or folk clubs, the best electric ones at small clubs or ethnic pubs (Irish, Mexican, etc.)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@wes-inman)
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I helped run an Open Mic at a small club for two years. We provided a drum kit, bass guitar and amp, electric guitar and amp, and a PA.

We were actually the house band. We had full sets of music ready in case players did not show up. Nobody signed up. Folks would just come in with their guitars, some would bring their own amp. If someone came in we always made sure they got up there. We tried to let everyone play at least 3 or 4 songs.

I loved it. I love live music better than any recorded music anyway.

You never knew what was going to happen. I've heard people get up who were horrible. They maybe knew two chords at most. They would play long repetitive songs with these same two or three chords. The next song would sound exactly the same. Folks like this only got maybe 3 songs.

Then I've heard people get up there and play songs that would blow your mind. You wish you had recorded it.

As the house band, sometimes we would play covers for people who simply wanted to sing. I remember a rather drunk lady one night asking us to play Bobbie McGee. She said she was a great singer. Oh boy, I cannot describe to you how bad she was. Imagine a cow with a horrible stomach ache. It was worse than that. You would have to hear it to believe how bad it was.

But this was cool with me. Hey, at least they had the nerve to get up and try. And even terrible performers can be very entertaining. :D

The club I played held maybe 100-200 people. Because we played every Thursday night we started to draw pretty nice crowds. On occasion we would pack the place. A slow night (bad weather) maybe 15-20 people. We probably averaged about 60-70 people.

After a few months musicians found out about the Open Mic. We started getting 4 or 5 coming in each week. Some nights we got as many as 10 musicians coming in. We even had bands come in and use our gear to try to get a gig with the owner.

As long as people respected the gear they were allowed to play. But if they were too drunk or thought they were Pete Townsend we would take the guitar away from them. We always set the volume of the amps and PA.

We used to get a pretty wild crowd. Everybody drank a lot. There were a few bad nights where people came in in a bad mood. You can feel it. I have seen a few fights and had to jump in a break up a few. I even had a drunk head butt me one night while I was playing. I threw him on the floor while I was still wearing my guitar. He had enough. We had people get in fights and fall over our monitors and knock all the mics over and even the drums.

This may sound terrible, but I loved it. It was fun to me. And bad nights like this were very rare. Most nights folks had a good time. They would shout and dance and call out favorite songs.

After over two years it became a job. We didn't make a lot of money. It gets old drinking too. I had to get up next day and work.

But I loved it and will never regret it. I may run another one some day. But not on a worknight!

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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 Mike
(@mike)
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Wes posted this link before, Open mikes. You can find a place by state. Sorry but, I think it is for US only.

cnev,

Was that place called "Black Eyed Sally's". If so, my friend that is teaching me a little on the side, rocked out there @ 3 weeks ago and keeps getting called back to do more. Since that night, he has had 6 or so bands have him sit it with them. My friend is really good.


   
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(@mattguitar_1567859575)
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Topic starter  

great replies guys, keep 'em coming people!! Wes you still tell a mean story mate! fantastic, enjoyed reading that post a lot.

thanks

Matt


   
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(@anonymous)
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I don't get the different between Open mikes and simple performances :shock:


   
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(@mattguitar_1567859575)
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Topic starter  

Open mike nights are spontaneaous and open to anyone. A guy can come in off the street and sing a song to an audience. Simple as that.

Its not a planned gig, in other words, its a venue based thing, open to all.

regards

Matt


   
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(@anonymous)
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Means a band with unsolicited invitations ? :lol:


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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John,

Band or solo performer whichever.

Tracker,

I'ver been to Balck Eyed Sally's some good blues players but no that's not the place. The name of the place is Sully's, it's a fairly small bar attached to a pizza place called Lena's. Very intimate setting, they have all the equipment so all you need is an instrument. The best open mic I've been to. Most people play original stuff although there are some covers played.

Really topnotch musician's there. You should tell your friend to check it out. Is he from Hartford?

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@wes-inman)
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Mattguitar said
Wes you still tell a mean story mate!

Matt, those stories are true. I dunno, I am not much for the coffee houses with a guy sitting on a stool and another guy playing bongos. Not putting that down at all. I have been to many Open Mics like that and enjoy that type of music very much.

I was playing guitar with a guy who is running an Open Mic just a few months ago. He plays acoustic and sings Country. His name is Larry Lauer and he is from Canada. Great voice. He plays some pretty upbeat stuff. I had to quit because of my schedule. They get a lot of acoustic players. Most of that is pretty tame, but I like it.

But given the choice, I want to hear electric guitars and drums. I like a lively place. I grew up in a rough neighborhood. Feels like home to me. 8)

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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(@mattguitar_1567859575)
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Topic starter  

Wes

Sorry, I wasn't saying they weren't true - I beleive you 100%. Just you are very good at telling them! Always enjoy your posts on here.

All the best

Matt


   
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(@wes-inman)
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Matt

No, I apologize. That was poor wording, I didn't mean to imply that you didn't believe me at all. So, sorry for that.

I remember one night this elderly man about 70 years old came in with this huge saxophone. I don't know much about saxes, but this thing was really big. He wanted us (the house band) to play covers he could jam to. The only problem is, we didn't know any of the music he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear big band music from the 30's or 40's.

So anyway, we played some 50's style Rock N Roll and some Blues tunes and he just jammed to them.

What was really incredible to me was how loud his sax was. I offered to set a mic on a stand but he didn't want it. I found out why. That sax of his had no problem whatsoever playing over our electric guitars and drums. Man, that thing was loud! :D

So, this is what is so great about Open Mics. You never know what you are going to get, and ANYBODY can participate.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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