Note: Throughout this week, we have posted photos, videos and accounts of some of the local open mic nights in and around Frederick. Today, we are sharing three experiences: One at Beans In The Belfry, one at the Blue Sky Bar And Grill, and the other at Bushwaller’s. Why are they up today? Because all of those open mic nights typically happen on Thursdays. Get it? Got it? Good. Now, let’s dive in.
Beans In The Belfry, 122 W. Potomac St., Brunswick
When: 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month
Best Moment: Meeting Gary Free, a 76-year-old local musician who wouldn’t stop telling the 14-year-old’s mother that her daughter needed to “learn some standards” for the next time she plays.
Synopsis: Have a family? Feel like hanging out in a 1910 red-brick church building? Like to sit on couches? Love walking into rooms that look like Martha Stewart’s zany new-age nephew might have decorated? This place is for you. Hosted by Tomy “One M” Wright (almost one year of Frederick Playlist, and writing “Tomy ‘One M’ Wright” still delights me to no end), it’s the cleanest, kindest, warmest, most-welcoming option you have on a Thursday night. The open mic has been running for six years, according to Wright, and if you have a kid who can play a ukulele and write songs — much like Gabrielle Zwi, whose mother warned me of her mom-eratzi status very quickly and somewhat aggressively — there isn’t a single good reason in the universe to not take advantage of this platform. It’s as family-friendly as it gets and the talent in Brunswick is worth the 15-minute drive. There were members of Willie And The Chaperones and Signs Point East there, and Wright, himself, had no problem sitting in with pretty much everyone, making it a communal atmosphere that goes a long way for parents who don’t want to see their daughter cover a Disney song on a ukulele in the middle of a bar that sometimes smells like french-fried urine. Also: They get bonus points for shouting out to “the guy from the newspaper.” Also (again): They get bonus bonus points for having someone like Free on hand, reminding me every three minutes that he once played with Patsy Cline at the firehall in Brunswick. Legendary.
Quote Of The Night: “My name is Gary Free. Free as a bird.”
Rated On A Scale Of Justin Bieber To Razorblade: The Soundtrack To Disney’s “Frozen.”
The Blue Sky Bar And Grill, 10519B Old National Pike, New Market
When: 8 p.m. every Thursday
Best Moment: Not one, but two — two! — Steely Dan covers.
Synopsis: Welp. Nothing started until 8:43 p.m. So, there’s that. In addition to me, there were three other people sitting at tables, watching the music. The sign-up list, God bless it, had no names on it. And a man named Sweet D played nine songs, making it a little less “open mic,” and a whole lot more “Sweet B For President.” In fact, because I had to get to my third open mic of the night, I left at 9:19 … as Mr. B launched into his ninth song. Which wasn’t the worst thing in the world, mind you. For one, he was a great sport about it all, engaging me in witty banter as the other three people in the bar looked on. His choices were sort of fun, too: The aforementioned Steely Dan songs. The Beatles’ “Taxman.” A Calvin Harris hit. Something from The Bee-Gees. Plus, he had a weirdly soulful voice, the type of approach to singing that makes you believe everything he does, which I appreciated wholeheartedly. At one point, as he described the lyrics to one of his original songs about finding love, he proclaimed that his as-yet-unfound significant other was “probably at home, watching ‘Game Of Thrones’ on her Amazon.com account, but I’m here with you guys.” Yes, Sweet B. All four of us.
Quote Of The Night: “I feel like this open mic is being audited,” Sweet B said after catching me taking notes at a nearby table. “‘He missed that note there … .’”
Rated On A Scale Of Justin Bieber To Razorblade: Donald Fagen’s book “Eminent Hipsters.”
Bushwaller’s, 209 N. Market St., Frederick
When: 9 p.m. sign-ups; 10 p.m. play begins each Thursday
Best moment: A surprise rendition of the 1959 country music classic “Long Black Veil.” Totally out of nowhere. Totally more interesting than anything Dave Matthews ever did.
Synopsis: Hosted by E.J. Atkins of The Knolly Moles, it appears to be the most active of the bunch. Sure, things started out slowly, but before long, it went from sparse to kind of crowded. And then from kind of crowded to crowded. And then from crowded to move out of my way. And then from move out of my way to no, seriously, I need to use the bathroom. This had, by far, the widest array of local artists among the Thursday bunch and the range in talent provided for some notable performances. In addition to “Long Black Veil,” I heard everything from Incubus’ “Pardon Me” to the old great depressing standard “You Are My Sunshine.” Oh, and then there’s E.J.’s laugh, which kind of sounds like the insides of Bea Arthur’s shoe. It’s the most busy open mic I visited and, all told, it’s probably the rowdiest one, too. I ran into members of Signs Point East, The Knolly Moles and Kabob-O-Taj there … and that was all within the first hour of walking in the door. By the time the Charlie Chaplin-dancing guy weirded everyone out, people were spilling into the street. “It gets more and more crazy as the night goes,” E.J. told me when I first arrived. Yep.
Quote Of The Night: “If I don’t get my whiskey, I surely will die.” Famous words from a famous host.
Rated On A Scale Of Justin Bieber To Razorblade: Trey Anastasio playing Jerry Garcia’s guitar parts at upcoming Grateful Dead shows in Chicago.