Open Mics of NYC
Noshi here. And this blog post is about some of the open mics we've experienced around the city while looking for our bassist...and prior, I guess. Although, I feel like I've spoken about this before.
On Thursday, July 18th, Open Mic Renegades (OMR) celebrated their one year anniversary. The group had gone from a few people in the Flower Power Coffee House in Ridgewood, Queens to a mega turnout at The Well in East Williamsburg (...or Bushwick...whatever you want to call it. Don't come for me.). With paid (and sometimes free) Eventbrite, Email and Walk-in sign ups, talent came from all borrows to try new things, advertise shows, get more experience or event just to entertain the audience (who had a separate ticketed price just to watch the show). Then, the proceeds go directly to the two featured artists for that day. Who are these angels!?
Their anniversary show was a major success with artists jumping into the crowd, scattered actors, never-before-seen collaborations by regulars, food vendors, the debut of their own merchandise and the announcement of an Anthology of one-year of open mic performers. OMR, in collaboration with one of the present vendors, Wide Eyes Publishing, is releasing an Anthology of photos, lyrics, excerpts, illustrations and so on representing all of the acts within the one year cycle. It's quite an achievement for an open mic. What's more is that most of its original supporters are from The Bronx - all the way to Bushwick, Dumbo and Ridgewood.
On the flip side, Little Skips is the most recent of many open mics that have either completely closed down or changed their policy on what an open mic actually might be. Citing the city-wide problem of rising rental fees that plague the local entertainment industry and thensome, lack of audience interest and support, a general inability to keep the lights on for free open mic walk-ins during one of the longest depressions in American history and musicians giving up on...well...creating, many venues have seen their worst days in the past three years. And quite frankly, with broke musicians supporting other broke musicians, the cycle continues. That would be why you might see so many people practically begging you to come out on social media.
Little Skips was, what our band would call, a group of misfits. If you read Vabo's post on the Punk lifestyle, you might be able to understand many artists that called this little coffee shop home, after dark. We were one of them, in our awkward glory, though we didn't have as much time with them as most of the performers. The stories that were told here, emotions shared and the memories made the last open mic on the 30th a very difficult goodbye. But we are slaves to the economy, changing tastes and to our own devices.
Our first time playing in public was actually at an open mic in a sandwich shop called Potbelly's where a lady kept using the ice machine for way too long (at least 70 years) right next to Vabo and his sensitive ears. That was an experience, if ever there were one, and I absolutely don't want to reflect too deeply. lol
I wonder if they're still doing those...
After that, we tried a bunch more. (In no particular order because I'm too lazy to look it up.)
- American Beauty. Massive stage. Massive audience space. Time Square. Great sound. Closed.... Well, they're not closed. They just stopped the open mic Mondays, which is unfortunate because it stopped just when we were offered a featured slot back in the day.
- Paddy Reilly's. Irish bar. Rock and roll. Bluesy? Apparently, not our crowd. The audience inside was not so off-putting, but it was quite genre-specific. If you got that good good folky, bluesy and pure rock and roll kind of feel going on, have at it.
- Sidewalk Cafe. Prime example of musicians supporting other musicians. Closed. Yeah, the entire audience was performers. lol And with a massive randomized list, you were never quite sure how long a show would go on for. Lots of places had this formula, actually. There was an upright piano. So, there's that.
- Pete's Candy Store. Williamsburg. Cool audience. Cool MC. Instrumentation kind of random. Okay, well, that last bit of shade was totally warranted. Sometimes, they have a drum set because there are live shows here, and sometimes there isn't. So, Mike V. sat through a few of these taking pictures. lol
Aaaand that's all the early open mics that I can remember. I feel like there were a few more.
But this blog is getting long. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
More recently, we discovered two jam spots at Stratosphere and Tilly's, Bushwick locals like Caffeine Underground and Platform and new contenders like Artefix and Bronx Noise. Well, they aren't new new, but they're relatively new. You know what I mean.
The city is full of open mics, busking spots, shows with little to no requirements and so on. So, whether you do this full time, part-time or as a hobby, do your research (Craigslist, FB, Instagram, Word of Mouth, Walking Around Aimlessly...) and check some stuff out. Or, Idk. Email one of us.