Your moment in the spotlight

Open-mike night offers exposure and networking

Scene: clubs, bars, nightlife

January 15, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Some did it on a dare, or maybe after too many martinis.

Others were looking for a rush, next-day bragging rights or even the start of a new career.

Whatever the reason, throngs of Baltimoreans have been grabbing a few minutes on stage at the city's various Monday night open-mike sessions.

Frazier's on the Avenue, the Funk Box, the Mojo Room and Lounge and Kiss Cafe are a few of the area's nightspots where wannabe rock stars and up-and-coming artists can be heard crooning away to both originals and cover tunes.

The open-mike night at Kiss Cafe, held by the Baltimore Songwriters Association, is a third-Monday-of-every-month event that typically brings a crowd of eager performers to the Canton cafe.

And at the Funk Box, the Mojo and Frazier's, there's never a shortage of players - from rocker acts and hip-hop artists to classically trained singers and even comedians - who turn up to secure a moment in the spotlight that can last from 5 minutes to half an hour.

Songwriters Association president and founder Paul Iwancio isn't surprised by the popularity of such events. For performers, he says, the benefits endure long after their on-stage moments are over.

"You play for your peers, and if they like your style ... you may link up and play at each other's gigs," he said.

"There is a lot of musical networking" going on, he added.

Iwancio himself has gained from the open-mike exchanges - the singer-guitarist's coming album (due out in May, he says) includes a few songs that were written by local musicians.

Other club operators believe the events are a favorite with local musicians because they provide a low-pressure creative outlet, sometimes on a big stage, for those who are unconnected or amateur.

"They can just walk right in" and get stage time without a press kit or a long resume, said Mojo Room and Lounge owner Andy Bopp of his open-mike night, where each participant is offered at least 20 minutes.

The night, which begins at 7:30 p.m., usually runs until 2 a.m.

"Sometimes you have to play late, but you do get your ... more than 15 minutes of fame," he noted.

Bopp, himself an accomplished musician, said he tries to foster a relaxed atmosphere and supportive attitude, two elements he believes add to the attractiveness of the event.

Although there may be no definitive reason for the success of open-mike nights around town, one thing is sure: They will go on.

Funk Box manager Mike Berg reported that the new club, which opened in September and has a schedule that's packed with national recording artists, has no plans to halt the weekly showcase, which has been drawing between 100 and 150 people to the 300-capacity venue.

It's not a full house, but Berg said he's sure the steady stream of performers and spectators will only grow in coming months.

"We've only had open mike night for three months now, but it's been growing weekly," he said.

For more club events, see Page 33.

Open-mike nights

Frazier's on the Avenue

Monday's open-mike night at this spot is for patrons ages 21 and up. The singing begins at 9 p.m. and usually goes until late, around 2 a.m.

Frazier's on the Avenue is at 919 W. 36th St. For more information, call 410-662-4914.

The Funk Box

This recently revamped nightclub, formerly the 8x10 Club, is one of Federal Hill's only live performance venues.

The club holds an open-mike night on most Mondays. Call or check its Web site to confirm times and dates in advance.

The Funk Box is at 10 E. Cross St. For more information, call 410-625-2000 or visit www.thefunkbox.com.

Kiss Cafe

This Canton nightspot is the site of a monthly open-mike night, held by the Baltimore Songwriters Association.

Stop by on the third Monday of every month to hear locals play their original music.

Kiss Cafe is at 2400 Boston St. For more information, call 410-327-9889 or visit www.baltimoresongwriters.org.

The Mojo Room and Lounge

At the Mojo, open-mike participants usually get between 20 and 30 minutes of stage time, said owner Andy Bopp.

The free event begins around 7:30 p.m. Mondays and runs until closing at 2 a.m.

The Mojo Room and Lounge is at 4825 Belair Road. For more information, call 410-325-7427 or visit www.mojobalto.com.

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