Sunday, September 24

Have stage: need bands, performers

Open mic nights offer musicians an easy forum to flaunt their talents


Looking for a place to play? West Los Angeles is full of
opportunities for performers to present their music to audiences,
from the Cultural Affairs Commission’s “Eclectic”
open mic nights on campus to McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa
Monica. For musicians trying to avoid the high-pressure glitz of
the Sunset Strip, an intimate open mic performance might be just
the thing, especially for those looking to save some money.

“No place like the Echo, Spaceland (and) the Roxy ““
you’ll never get a show there without paying unless you have
pretty strong management,” third-year philosophy student Greg
Katz said.

While Katz performed several “pay-to-play” concerts
at the Roxy with his former band, Kings And Planets, he preferred
playing for free at Westwood Brewing Company. Kings And Planets
booked their shows ahead of time, but Brewco is one of several
local venues that hosts a semi-weekly open mic night. Though
policies differ, generally anyone can walk in that evening and sign
up for a few minutes on stage.

“Sometimes someone will come in with two or three friends
and something simple like bongos or electric piano. You’re
only really welcome for a couple of songs, so you want to travel
light,” said Katz, a guitarist who has also performed in an
open mic held in De Neve Auditorium by UCLA’s Baha’i

While Katz was part of a duo at that particular event, the
majority of the performers involved in a standard open mic are
guitar-playing singer-songwriters trying out new songs on their
own. One such songwriter is Sarah Conley, a 2005 UCLA graduate.

“I’ve been doing them since freshman year in
college, five years,” said Conley, who has used various open
mics to prepare for larger events such as her Spring Sing
performances in 2003 and 2004. “Doing open mics is an
excellent way to build your comfort level in front of sometimes
intimidating crowds ““ these are fellow songwriters and
musicians, so you hold their opinions a little higher.”

For veteran performers such as Conley, who is a regular at
McCabe’s Guitar Shop, a weekly open mic is the perfect
opportunity to tweak songs and test their chops. Conley mentioned
one fellow musician who played the same song every week, and added
improvements and variations each time after hearing audience
feedback. While this creates a valuable workshop environment for
aspiring singer-songwriters, some are just there to enjoy

“It’s kind of cool to have friends watch you
play,” second-year computer science student Eyal Reuveni
said. “It’s a way to get yourself out there.”

Performers at places such as Brewco usually bring along a crowd
of friends to cheer them on throughout their performance.
It’s a supportive setting for a novice performer, whether or
not they’re playing music.

Kerckhoff Coffeehouse hosts Eclectic, a weekly series that
encourages artists, writers and creative people of all types to
join the standard parade of folk singers.

Though some open mics, such as those at McCabe’s, are
restricted to music, many offer the invaluable opportunity for a
slam-poet or stand-up comedian to present him or herself to a live
audience, too. While open mic nights may just be a training ground,
everybody’s got to start somewhere.

“Everyone there is going to put themselves on the line,
everyone there is trying out material that they’re not so
sure about yet,” said Katz. “You’re all on the
same boat of experimenting.”

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