Perhaps you play guitar and sing or play the Venezuelan nose-flute and fancy placing your enormous talent before the discerning public. You need an urgent visit to an open mic.
You may well have heard about these vaguely intimidating events but don’t know how they work. Step forward Richard Gregory the open mic night king. He runs a website which is a sort of Trip Advisor for open mics. He lists the best and worst on offer and reviews what you can expect to find at various venues right across London. Summon up your courage, find one close to where you live and give it a go.
The majority take place in pubs, some in a separate room, others in the corner of a bar. They vary enormously, some are quiet shoe gazing events for whey-faced acoustic purists, others are noisy bare knuckle affairs. Choose your poison.
Many open mics are incredibly popular and you may need to get there in good time to get on the list. Music typically begins at 8pm, but you should get to the venue by 6.30 or 7pm to have any hope of getting on. There will be an organiser who runs the whole farrago so make sure when you arrive you find out who that person is and they are aware of your presence. The list may not open straight away and some are better than others at recognising who pitched up first; some also favour their mates. So keep an eye on this individual and when the list opens beat a path to the queue.
You will likely get to play two songs, on a quiet night you might get three. Your audience will often be made up of fellow musicians, a tricky crowd, but many are supportive especially if they discover you are something of an OM virgin.
A few ground rules for you:
- You are performing and taking up people’s time and while the audience will cut you some slack, if you really can’t play, can’t remember your words, keep stopping and starting any residual goodwill, will soon fade away.
- A personal plea from me – No Backing Tapes. I have nothing against Karaoke, but this is not the place for it.
- There are usually around 20 or so slots a night and on a typical night around 5 acts will play in an hour – so you do the math as to when you might get on.
- If you play guitar make sure it’s tuned up and unless you must use a pedal, perhaps a looper, leave them at home.
- A quick stage entry and exit is vital to keep the wheels greased.
- Listen and applaud other artists if you like them.
- Don’t just turn up, play and leave, it appears rude.
These can be fun events, you won’t be paid but you will sometimes get free food and drink. Above all when you hit the stage look like you’re having a good time, because if you don’t it’s unlikely anyone else will. The range of talent is enormous from the gawd-help-us go away and practise for a year to the utterly sublime. Tempted? Give it a go.