Open mics are the new black
Open mics are nothing new in themselves, people have always got up at poetry nights and folk clubs and done a well-rehearsed turn. The old circuit was small but predictable, regular faces with songs rarely their own, usually a Ralph McTell or Bob Dylan, performances perfect duplicates of the record everyone attending would have on 7” and be eager to compare accordingly. Guitarists coveted the Hummingbirds of others but openly doubted the best year of manufacture and recommended a different gauge and make of string. There were horror stories of bands refusing to leave the stage after a handful of songs and dragging out a full set, leaving an audience weary-hearted, the room empty and the musicians themselves as bitter as stewed coffee. Poets brought self-penned poems guaranteed of a laugh, mouthed and chortled along to in the right places, but duly slagged off in the bar afterwards.
Not so much now. Spoken word events are changing, the literary salon label slapped on and given respectability. Multi-disciplinary open mics pull in kids in their early teens anxious to tuck beneath their belts a debut performance in front of an adult audience. People come along to have a go, perhaps try new poems and songs to gauge the audience response. Events are well attended and not just by those in hope of hogging the mic.
Why? I don’t know. Can we blame The Voice? Britain’s Got Talent? I’m not sure. Last month, a former teacher at the open mic I host read out letters her eleven year old pupils wrote back in 1970s about the Second World War. Her words brought the house down, much like the impromptu verse written on the night read out after her appearance, and the traditional African folk tale given a 2014 twist following that.
That’s not to say open mics are quite there yet. The sweet spot is elusive, still.
‘I’ve forgotten my guitar. Can I borrow yo-’
‘Do you pay expenses?’
Ha ha ha ha ha. FRIGGING NO.