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Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 12:01 am

The open mics are open


This is a great time of year to get yourself out and off to one of the many open mics playing at various venues in the area. If you’re not familiar with the notion, it’s easy and goes like this: you get to perform on stage on the “mic” because it is “open” to all comers. Usually there is a host who performs first to set the stage on stage. They also check on the sign-up list, call up performers, run the P.A. and are in charge of the night.

At busy open mics I’ve attended in Chicago, hosts are strict about adhering to a  three-song or 15-minute limit, so forget your plan to do “Alice’s Restaurant,” “American Pie” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” as your set. Around here things are friendly and loose. Some folks use these nights to try out new songs or musician combos, others just take the opportunity to perform a few songs for pleasure in public. Some venues check out the new talent, using the nights as public auditions. Open mics can be fun from the other side of the microphone as well. So if your musical talent is at the listening stage, come as a supportive member of the audience. You really never know who will walk in that door.

Usually the open mics occur on off nights instead of the weekends and it’s long been a good way for full-time, working musicians to host and make some dough on those slower nights. Your job is to practice some tunes at home, then bring your own instrument of choice to the open mic (please don’t expect the host to supply you with one) and get ready to play. I did my first public performance on acoustic guitar at an open mic held in what was then called the Ground Round, now home to the Dublin Pub. I was nervous and shaky, played a crappy version of “The Long Black Veil” and got down.

Here is a rundown of some of the currently booked open mics going on, as listed in our Pub Crawl. On Thursdays, Antone DeRocchi does a great job at his long-running show in Taylorville at One East Market, but then he does a great job at everything. Sometimes the Butternut Hut holds an open jam on Thursdays with bass, drums and electrified jamming to go along with acoustic playing. At the Walnut Street Winery, different hosts run a usual weekly open mic with the next scheduled for Feb. 9 with Yoshi as host.

The Koo Koo’s Nest has one every Tuesday, while Marly’s has the Talent Tuesday night open to bands as well as acoustic performers, and Torch Tuesday does provocative and compelling hip-hop and rap at Bar None. Wednesday shows the lovely and talented Josie Lowder at Donnie’s Homespun with an acoustic night most nights, plus a once-a-month electric, full band, open jam up on the big stage. Also on “Hump Day” the ever-popular and always incredible Kourtney Leatherwood of KFD hosts a rockin’ stage at the Crow’s Mill Pub and Bar None holds the Wide Open Mic, chosen by the readers of Illinois Times as Best of Springfield winner for open mic. These are all that’s listed this week, but they come and go in cycles. I’ve always held that a strong set of open mics keeps the talent coming, like minor leagues in baseball. When the open stages are up and going, the pool of performers increases and the whole music scene benefits, including players, audiences and venues.

Well, now, let’s get to going and support your local open mic soon.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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