The open mic experience

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Pat Tyler is a singer and guitarist who plays gigs around Raleigh. She often comes to open mic nights at Compass Rose Brewery. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Meehan)

Open mic nights are events where talented individuals may show off their skills in front of an audience. They are open for anyone brave enough to participate and are an exciting way to grow your musical abilities. 

Usually, open mics are musical events, and many are located in the Raleigh area. Southern Roots Entertainment is a company that specializes in providing open mic nights for local venues.

Brian Jones owns Southern Roots Entertainment and manages open mic nights for musicians in the area. He began working in the open mic business 15 years ago, on a whim.

“[I started] by accident,” said Jones. “At Ruckus Pizza by NC State in 2009, me and my friend were going to an open mic there. The guy who was hosting it was going on tour with his band and there wasn’t an open mic host, so I asked the manager of Ruckus Pizza if I could try it out and they gave me a shot. I’ve been there ever since.” 

Once Jones was successful at Ruckus Pizza, he began expanding to other locations. He has hosted open mics at around 25 different venues over the years and currently manages nine in the Raleigh area. 

Southern Roots Entertainment has open mics at Ruckus Pizza on Tuesdays and hosts others throughout the week. Visit their Facebook to find more opportunities to play at an open mic.

One of the locations where Jones hosts an open mic is Compass Rose Brewery. They have an open mic every Sunday afternoon, and there is usually a sizable crowd consisting of people watching sports, families with kids, and the open micers themselves. 

Pat Tyler is a regular at the Compass Rose open mic night. She sings and plays guitar, and sometimes performs along with her husband. They’ve been doing open mic nights for about four years, and they also do their own gigs. Visit her Facebook for more about her.

“I’ve been singing since I was a teenager, playing the guitar and singing. Then [my husband and I] stopped to raise kids, then they left, then we started back with open mics, and from there, we got some gigs around the area,” said Tyler.

Tyler and her husband met through music when they were teenagers. “He was in a band… My parents followed that band, and we were introduced, and then we dated and we got married. That was 42 years ago,” said Tyler.

Music has a way of bringing people together, and open mics facilitate this sense of community. People often show up regularly to their local open mic and get to know the other performers. At Compass Rose, the open micers sit together at a table up front to watch each other perform.

“Everyone is very, very supportive. At open mic, it’s like a family. People come out and support each other. People come to our gigs and we try to go to other people’s gigs,” said Tyler.

However, the majority of performers at open mics are adults. Few teens come out to perform at open mics, even though there are plenty of teenage musicians. One reason for the lack of teens could be that open mics are often held at breweries or bars. Even though many venues are open to people under 21 years old, most performers are over the drinking age.

Maybe teenagers have no interest in performing for an audience, but Syd Worth, a junior at Leesville, enjoys playing live. “[Playing live] is nerve-wracking, but once I’m up there and in the groove, it’s really fun,” said Worth. 

These factors may affect the scarcity of teenage performers, but in reality, teenagers are probably too nervous to get up on stage and play. However, the nerves are unwarranted, because open mics are a positive and welcoming environment for performers of all ages and skill levels. 

“What’s cool about the open mic community is it could be people that are beginners or singer-songwriters that write their own music or do covers. It’s a community that’s almost a second family for a lot of people,” said Jones.

Open mics are low-pressure environments, which benefits amateur musicians. The audience does not pay too close attention to the performer, because they’re distracted by sports on the TV or absorbed in a conversation, which is helpful for people who tend to stumble when too many eyes are on them. 

The laid-back energy is also good for experienced musicians. Some open micers do paid gigs, or even make music professionally, and open mics are a low-stakes place to try out new songs and have a good time.

Jones first performed at an open mic when he was a teenager. “The first time I did an open mic I was terrified. I did it when I was 18 years old. The first song I played, I was so nervous, but hearing everybody clap, I lost that nervousness, and it made me want to go home and practice more and write more music,” said Jones.  

Tyler also encourages young people to perform at open mics. “Come on out, no one’s judgemental. Bring your instrument, play, sing. Do the best you can and no one’s going to judge.”

Open mics at places like Compass Rose are a confidence booster for any performer and are great opportunities to try something new. Musicians young and old should consider playing at an open mic because nothing is more uplifting than having a whole room cheer for you, no matter what kind of musician you are.

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