The main purpose of an open mic night is to give an amateur band/musicians a chance to play out in public. You may think your band is above this, but if you’re not making any dinero at your shows and/or you don’t like the pressure of filling a club, an open stage is probably where you belong right now.
The reality is that most original bands would benefit from playing out once a month or less. Tapping the social network more frequently than this often produces a diminishing margin of return (increasingly weaker and weaker crowds). But if your band mates are jones-ing for that live performance experience, an open mic night is definitely an option to consider.
There are several open mics around town that allow for a band to get stage rehearsal experience plus: recorded sound, photos, video and even audition opportunities at certain venues. And promoters and other agents sometimes hang out at these clubs too, especially if invited (hint, hint).
Make it a dress rehearsal
If you’re playing an open mic for stage experience, be sure to go all the way. Bring your A Game and dress the part too. Arrange a professional photographer (or videographer) and you could easily walk away with some of your best promo shots ever.
These days, it takes little effort to make live sound recordings of your performance. Bring a hard drive or reasonable size (20 MB) flash drive so the engineer can record right off the board. Warning: Keep in mind that the drive will probably need to be reformatted for Mac! Many open mic techs (for a fee) will help you mix and even overdub if necessary so that the recordings can be used to help sell the band in the future.
Here is a reasonably current list of open mic night opportunities, for every day of the week…
Bistro Al Vino (15352 E Ida Drive, Centennial) – run by the high quality open mic company, Open Stage Denver
Meadowlark Bar (2701 Larimer St, Denver)
The Toad Tavern (5302 S Federal Circle, Littleton)
Ziggie’s (4923 W 39th Ave, Denver)
Herb’s Bar (2057 Larimer St, Denver)
Herman’s Hideaway – Wednesday nights are new band night. Thursdays are for more experienced bands that can draw a little stronger and are trying to prove themselves for Friday and Saturday slots.
Nissi’s Live Music & Bistro (2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette)
The Walnut Room (3131 Walnut St, Denver)
Lakewood Grill (blues jam – 8100 W Colfax, Lakewood)
Summit Music Hall (front room – 1902 Blake St, Denver)
Swallow Hill Café (71 East Yale, Denver)
Sweetwater Station (9975 Wadsworth Parkway, Westminster) – hosted by Open Stage Denver
The Celtic Tavern (2620 W Belleview Ave, Littleton)
La Dolce Vita (5756 Olde Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada)
Sam’s Bar & Grill (6801 E Leetsdale Dr, Denver)
And if your friendly neighborhood music venue doesn’t already have an open mic night, just make the suggestion. The venue will probably be receptive. A lot of venues love FREE live music…
Do open mic nights take advantage of bands?
The short answer is “no,” as in, your band can always say no to playing an open mic night…a battle of the bands…a charity event…a non-paying festival or other form of showcase event. It’s your personal responsibility to say no when a situation doesn’t feel right to you.
There’s been a lot of hoopla about bands being taken advantage of in recent years. But don’t play the victim role here. You never lose your free will…unless you give it away; you can always say “no, thank you.” And think about this – if you are choosing the DIY route, you are going to need to know how to be assertive…and when to say yes and when to say no. You’ll have lots of other challenges too: booking yourself, promoting yourself, negotiating properly, educating yourself, being a competent jack of all trades…stay tuned.