The Necessity of the Open Mic Night
By Jon White, Multimedia Reporter
A stage, a microphone, an audience, and someone who has the courage to perform, are all that is needed for an open mic night to happen. Then why is it so difficult to find these events? There are a few venues in town that cater to this type of show, but the shows feel like they are few and far between. With the recent announcement that the city of Prince George is increasing funding for the arts (see here), it is about time that this interest is sent to other forms of arts and entertainment. To show that the city cares about its artists, its citizens need to embrace these events. With more patrons supporting these venues, more venues will be tempted to host open mic nights. The more venues that open, the more these artists will have a chance to practice their craft and improve their skills in a public setting. These open mic night may be unstructured and allow anyone stage time, but that is part of the creative process.
Professional and local comedian, Brian Majore, stresses the importance of these open mic nights, as it allows the entertainer to get immediate feedback; “You can bounce your material off of your friends as much as you want, but you’re not going to get that same feedback as when you are performing… that open mic will give you that confidence.” Feedback is vital to any kind of performance artist. Whether one is a poet, musician, comedian or dancer, every act is constructed by the performer to be entertaining. To plan the act is a lot like an experiment; an entertainer will think of a routine, song, or poem and work on it to the point where they think it is worth presenting. Once it is presented, the performer looks for feedback in how the crowd responds, much like how a scientist looks for feedback from his or her peers through published works, or seminars. From there, they take the feedback and will further perfect the act. Majore also mentioned that it allows artists to try new stuff in a more relaxed atmosphere, as the crowd is getting to know someone in a more intimate setting, rather than a formal and impersonal show. Majore brought up that this allows the performer to become more fearless, due to the confidence boosts one receives while performing for a smaller crowd.
Majore mentioned that the past few open mics at Alfredo’s Pub have been a great building experience for material, as it allows him to get closer to be the artist he is trying to be, “Okay, [the patrons/performers] are regulars, they probably got to know me a little bit because they’ve heard my material, I’ve told a couple of stories and lately, the material I’ve been writing has become a lot more personal. I’m revealing more of myself.” This open mic is allowing artists to become more true to their vision of the craft, which allows performers of varying degrees of experience to grow. Majore has been in the stand-up scene for over a decade, with multiple tours and a CD under his belt, but he continues to grow thanks to the crowd that an open mic offers. Majore commented, “Open mics allow you to do material, do something different; if you’re scared, bring it up! Who cares? It’s an open mic, who’s going to be there? It’s not like you’re going to have the Just for Laughs booker in the audience.” A relaxed environment with an attentive crowd helps the artist get a read on what is working and what is not, so one can see if the new material is ‘working.’
It is not just the crowd that can help the artist grow, as the support from other artists also helps to shape the form of these nights. Looking at the performer’s table from the open mic night, there were three comedians and a poet, all interacting with each other and sharing the love of performing their craft. The table was very receptive and open with support whenever one of them was on stage, which lends itself to a feeling of camaraderie that helps to create an open environment. The performers exchanged feedback, suggestions and compliments, giving themselves to have even more ideas on how to improve their sets.
Even in this digital age where one can broadcast themselves for the world to see, it will not replace the feedback that one gets from an open mic night. Majore was quoted as saying, “You could go home right now, grab your guitar and a camera, perform a song, [and] put it on YouTube but you’re not going to get that immediate feedback that you would get if you were at a mic.” So even though artists are getting views on YouTube, they are not getting that feedback that comes from being able to read a crowd, a skill that is essential to any performing artist. YouTube has a habit of attracting negative comments due to the feeling users have of anonymity of the internet, so a lot of comments cannot be taken seriously as there is a high chance someone is deliberately trying to be hurtful.
Granted, hecklers can appear at open mic nights, but there is still a room full of people that are there to enjoy the show. Generally speaking, there are no cover charges or additional costs to attend these open mic nights, so all patrons have to worry about is the cost of food and booze. In the end, one is getting a free show and helping an artist grow and perfect his or her craft.
Prince George has sent a message saying that is supporting the arts, so it is time for these performance droughts to end. The citizens now have to “put up or shut up,” as people are clamoring for more local shows and events. Now is the time to help support these open mic nights, as it allows local artists to grow their craft. No entertainer has instantly walked into a club and headlined immediately, as it takes time and lots of practice to get good at one’s chosen profession. Help these artists out and support the local scene. In the end, everyone benefits and the city can will be known for supporting the local arts.