Friday, 3 February 2012

The Open Mic Story - Part Two

So, to continue from where I left off...

Around the time when the guys from Manchester came down to open mic was about the busiest I had been. But it wouldn't last. Soon pubs started closing and changing hands in 'the great public house depression' that has been going on in the last few years, seeing pubs close all over the UK every week. The Crown changed hands, and though we tried to keep the night going under new owners, they weren't keen. The New Inns experiment turned out to be a failure, and The Bird in Hand also cancelled the open mic nights due to poor attendance. It seems that the reputations of the places I was putting nights on in was finally catching up with me.

So for a while we only had The Woodman, which had changed over the summer to running twice a month, and was getting a decent reputation. With this came new performers and friends, and they in turn opened new opportunities. I started running a new open mic just before Christmas at The Harrows in Coven, and although popular, it also fell foul of the depression. I moved to The Rainbow, but we didn't have much luck there either.

It was then that I was introduced into The Hartley Arms, a canalside pub in Wheaton Aston, which now runs a fortnightly open mic with me on a Monday night. This night stops and starts in terms of attendance, but has build a small loyal community following of a couple of young artists and fans, which is integral to any open mic night. As my own pool of musician friends improve and move on to bigger and better things, they tend to frequent my open mic nights less, as their 'touring' circle becomes larger and larger.

My own solo gigs had started to improve too, and I was now getting preferential treatment at the famous Robin 2 in Bilston. I became known as their 'go-to support', as I live 20 minutes away, take 2 minutes to sound check and am happy with being called in the afternoon for a gig that evening. I started off with warm up slots for large tribute acts which, although was in front of audiences of over 400 people, it wasn't the kind of crowd that were into my music. However, in a great case of mutual back-scratching, I was also let in on support slots I could choose, so I could pick artists (and projected audiences) that would fit in with my style. This led to me supporting Ian Parker, Edgar Broughton, The Sounds of Simon and Edwina Hayes, gigs where I could really showcase my music to an audience that were 'into it'.

In my search for a 'day job' I sent a CV to The Robin 2 detailing my accomplishments, including a list of my open mic night ventures. Off the back of this I was offered the opportunity to host a monthly open mic at the venue, which I jumped at. I also get to run the sound and geek myself silly on the amount of control I have.

So that's where we are. I now run nights at The Woodman and The Robin 2 once a month and The Hartley Arms fortnightly. I also have a brand new open mic lined up at The Stirrups in Brewood for this month.

As promised, I'd like to end this blog by naming some of the people (and linking them) who have helped me along with their performances at my open mic nights. Some have since moved on to bigger and better things, musical and otherwise, but we still see them all from time to time. Here we go;

Pink Ukulele Guy - https://www.facebook.com/Pinkukuleleguy - I met Jamie before his alter-ego was even fuelled at the open mic night at Alchemy in Wolverhampton. A truly unique artist, Jamie is an excellent songwriter and the single greatest example of independent branding I have ever seen! People all over the Midlands know him due to his relentless open mic visiting and memorable stage show. Many also have a t-shirt!

Lottie Phazey - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lottie-Phazey/110538252339985 - Lottie first appeared as a 14 year old at The Bird in Hand open mic night when I started going, playing covers of Kate Nash and The Script. She has since progressed as a guitarist, singer and lyricist and has in her set now some frankly outstanding songs. I'd never say an artist needs to 'get discovered', but if anyone needs to get herself an EP/album recorded it's Lottie. I'd buy it!

Matt Dooner - http://matt486gigs.blogspot.com/ - Matt is one third of 'The Travelling Fools', a touring set of artists including myself that we are trying to put together this year. I met him, along with the third artist, at a memorable gig at The Varsity in Wolverhampton. He has since become a close friend. I recorded his EP for him recently, so you will have to keep your eyes out for that sometime this year. Matt is an excellent lyricist who writes some of the most relatable songs I have ever heard!

Elliot Burton - https://www.facebook.com/pages/ElliottJBurton/242492439128915 - Elliot is the third part of 'The Travelling Fools'. A close friend and fantastic performer, Elliot is known for his extreme performances of great classics, as well as his eclectic covers and songwriting that ranges from tongue in cheek to Dylan-esque. Look out for Psych Killer, Nessun Dorma and Jerusalem, as well his own songs 'Cannock Girls' and the magnum opus, 'Sound of a Chord'

Lydia Jones - Winner of Beacon Radio's Young Musician award last year, Lydia is well known throughout the Midlands due to her high profile performances and constant open mic gigging. She has a CD of covers that she recorded with me, and is getting better and better with every performance. If you attend an open mic anywhere enough, you will see her eventually!

So that's it. I'll write again at the weekend. If you are in the area, come down to Village Coffee in Codsall on Saturday to see me playing some chilled out acoustic classics.

See you soon,

Sam.