A visit to some Open Mic sessions around Charlottetown
by Gena Fisher
Open Mic is as easy to create as any good house party. Plug in one microphone and include a stage no bigger than your average kitchen. Add one or two hosts plus a whole lot of local talent and you never know what you're going to get.
Traditionally on weekends crowds gravitate to city bars. Wednesday and Thursday nights were usually spent in front of the TV but not any more. People are getting off their couches and venturing out into the cold to see live performers at nearby hot spots.
Although Open Mic may be compared to amateur night, Charlottetown hosts are never surprised by who will show up. Dave Howard, host at Brennan's Open Mic, rocked with the patrons when Big Sugar showed up to jam one night. "They were in town to perform a gig and decided to come in for a beer, the rest was magic," he said.
However, musicians don't rule the stage. Other talented performers have captured audiences too. Exotic belly dancers, rhythmic cloggers, comedians and gifted poets have entertained barroom clientele with their antics.
Dave Nicholson, known as Dr. Dave, loves his job as host of open mic at Baba's Lounge. The host's job is to entertain the audience until someone else wants to take to the stage. Often new performers need a little time before they can get up and captivate a bunch of people they may or may not know. Until then, Dr. Dave plays his guitar and sings just about any request people shout out. "But," says, the doctor, "please don't make me play Brown Eyed girl or American Pie again." "Break-dancing is frowned upon, but anything is possible."
Open Mic hosts at Casey's Lounge Scott MacNeil and Brent Barbrick grin big for the camera.
Casey's Pub combines trivia and open mic all in one night but not all in one sitting. Trivia begins an 8 pm with host Stats and when it ends at 10 pm open mic hosts Scott MacNeil and Brent Barbrick begin. "Casey's is the best kept secret in Charlottetown," said manger Corey MacDonald. MacNeil and Barbrick are a team from Nova Scotia who blend witty wisecracks with tunes ranging from traditional to pop. At all times the upbeat duo encourages crowd participation and dancing, why yes.
Open mic has been popular for years. It can provide an open forum for a new artist to be heard for the first time or it can be a place a professional artists might choose to try out some new material.
Participant Larry Yeo sang and played his guitar before a crowd at Brennan's. "It's the crowd-the feeling you get from the crowd. It grips you," he said. Whether it's comedy, music, poetry or dance, open mic is a good time just as long as you remember you can never be sure what's going to let loose. The hosts are all zany musical men and they all agree with Dr. Dave: "There is enough talent here to sink a ship."