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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007 06:02 am

Come on up, the stage is open

Springfield awash in opportunities for amateurs

Untitled Document Open mics offer a great opportunity for the entertainment expert and novice to meet and mingle. Generally these events have a host and a signup sheet — and you, the aspiring musician, add your name to the list and patiently wait your turn to grace the stage. The host starts the night with a set, then the “open” part begins as the listed participants entertain the crowd in an orderly fashion for as long as the whims of the host allow. The less busy weeknights are normally reserved for open mics, and our Pub Crawl proves this out. There are three dates on Thursday, two on Sunday, three on Monday, two on Tuesday, and two on Wednesday, for a grand total of 12 open mics per week in Springfield. Most, like the one at Andiamo (the longest-running open mic in town, by the way, at six years and counting), are acoustic-guitar-oriented for the singer/songwriter type, with a few notable exceptions. For aspiring jazz cats, the Frank Trompeter Quartet hosts a happening get-together at Foli’s Place on Thursdays, and Frank Parker heads up his Jambalaya Jam on Mondays at the Brewhaus. The Illinois Central Blues Club runs the Blue Monday Jam at the Alamo on Mondays. Technically Blue Monday is the longest-running local open stage, at 20-odd years, but it’s not your typical open mic. A band — sometimes local, sometimes national — opens the night, playing until 11 or 11:30 p.m. and then offering up the stage for electric-blues jamming until around 12:30 a.m. In a new twist on the open-mic concept, True Tone Studios offers (for a small fee) to record performers at Mojo’s during Josh Catalano’s acoustic night on Thursdays and at the Hip Hop Open Mic Night on Tuesdays. It’s a cost-efficient and fairly painless way to find out whether you sound as good as you think you do. If you aspire to be a funny guy, take a drive north to the Mason City Limits, in downtown Mason City, some Thursday night for the comedy open stage and see how your wisecracks work. The management also encourages musicians to perform, and I imagine that other open mics wouldn’t care if a comedian or two signed up to break the monotony of guitar-playing singers. No discussion of open stages would be complete without a mention of the ever-popular but much-maligned karaoke. A quick scan of last week’s Pub Crawl lists, I kid you not, 26 karaoke nights in Springfield, with a mind-boggling eight listed for Friday night alone. That’s more than double the instrumental open mics. The main reason, in my opinion, is that anybody with a voice can get up and sing — and from my experience at karaoke nights, usually just about anybody does. The real beauty of these open entertainment nights lies in their egalitarian nature. Go let your hair down, have some fun, and break a leg. The most important ingredient to a successful open mic is a receptive and appreciative audience, without which all stages are doomed to extinction.
Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com
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