Note: Throughout this week, we will be posting photos, videos and accounts of some of the local open mic nights in and around Frederick. Today, we are sharing two experiences: One at Frederick Coffee Company and the other at The Cellar Door. Why are they up today? Because both open mics typically happen on Tuesdays. Now, we couldn’t find an open mic to get to on Wednesdays, so because of that, tomorrow’s entry will be a first-hand account of what it’s like to perform at one of these things (and don’t worry – it won’t be from me). Get it? Got it? Good. Now, let’s dive in.
Frederick Coffee Co., 100 N. East St., Frederick
When: 7 p.m. each Tuesday. Sign-ups begin at 6 p.m.
Best moment: A very nice man explained to me how he has been reading my music review columns for a while now. “I’m sorry,” I responded.
Synopsis: If open mics are supposed to embody amateurism’s finest hour, then Frederick Coffee Co. embodies that more than any other place in town. Some open mics devolve into little more than drunken people pounding away on instruments. But here, host Todd C. Walker keeps everyone to two songs and even that can change (“Sometimes, the second song is one song too many,” he told me at one point.). Some open mics kick off 45 minutes late. But here, it was 6:58 when Walker introduced the night’s first artist. Some have hosts who insist on playing four or five songs themselves. Here, Walker didn’t even bring his guitar. Say what you want about the performers or the cliche of an open mic in a coffee shop, but those guys run a tight ship over there and respect is something they wholeheartedly deserve. When some kid named Nic ran through 10 minutes of “American Pie” and asked the crowd to sing the final refrain, that crowd sang. When @daveydrummaboi (his words, not mine) asked the people to clap along to his rendition of a Boston song that he performed while playing drums to a prerecorded track, the hands coming together made it impossible to hear yourself think. It’s a community. A family. Not just some dudes who set up their instruments and leave the venue for two hours while everyone else comes in and provides entertainment for an audience. The Frederick Coffee Co. open mic is smothered in support. Large or small. Good or bad. They all know each other and they all appreciate each other. Now, if Todd only knew the egg he hatched when, as @daveydrummaboi was drumming through Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain,” he jokingly whispered this into my ear: “You know, he’d probably let you do a minute if you wanted … .”
Quote Of The Night: “For some people, this might be the biggest musical stage they ever get on. It takes a lot of guts,” Walker said before the music began. And even reading that back again makes my heart break just a little.
Rated On A Scale Of Justin Bieber To Razorblade: Someone singing the theme song to “Golden Girls” on a loop.
The Cellar Door, 5 E. Church St., Frederick
When: 9 p.m. each Tuesday
Best moment: A man known as Open Mikey (how great is that?!) covering Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” Yes. I still can’t get enough of it.
Synopsis: Well, I played. And if there was one thing I swore I’d never do in my life, it’s play at an open mic night. But, hey: All in the name of journalism, right? The song was a Knolly Moles original, along with the band’s singer/guitar player (and co-host of the Cellar Door’s open mic night) E.J. Atkins. A lot of people said a lot of really nice things when we were done, but I missed a couple cues. I never got comfortable. Blah, blah. Enough of that. Because … holy moly, I forgot what it’s like to play the drums. In front of people. Under lights. Sweating profusely. My balding head shining off the purple lights as though it were a polished version of Grimace. It was, without question, the most exhilarating open mic night of them all. Because as fate would have it, Andrew Bromhal, he of the dearly departed local band Silent Old Mtns., was in the house, and he was signed up under my name (I didn’t even know I was on the list until E.J. wrote “Skeeze McGuire” next to the number 1). He even took a request to play one of my favorite songs from his old band’s album. And this was all on top of another rendition of “Use Me”? Well, slap me silly, roll me into a ball, and send me to Lithuania. It being the final open mic I checked out, there couldn’t have been a better way to end the entire ordeal. Besides: Any open mic co-hosted by some guy who literally goes by the name “Open Mikey” is an open mic everyone should check out at least once. And if you’re going to pick only one to play, the bigger question is, why wouldn’t it be the one that has that guy running things?
Quote Of The Night: “They call him Open Mikey because he used to play at every single open mic with every single band, right through to the end,” E.J. told me early in the night before lowering his voice and sighing. “He just wouldn’t get off the stage.”
Rated On A Scale Of Justin Bieber To Razorblade: Well, as somebody sarcastically blurted out during one of Open Mikey’s songs, “Great. I’m at a Phish show now. It’s what I always wanted.”