In a perfect world, at least for me, every city has an open mic that makes people feel at home. My home and yours might be different, but the key part is that one should have an open mic to call his/her own. In Baltimore, my open mic was Acoustic Thursdays. I’d like to think that my event, QueenEarth & Friends at Terra Cafe was becoming a sanctuary for the city’s best artists. When I moved to San Jose, it took a lot of footwork, but I found a small network of events and a cafe near my apartment. Cafe Frascatti, hosted an amazing Tuesday night event. While I was there Creative Flow and Fatale popped up and I even hosted my own event, We Create Wednesdays at iJava Cafe. I hoped to find an open mic when I spread my wings and headed to London with my partner and our dog. I have learned so much on my travels, and I am trying as much as possible to share my knowledge with you all via these open mic guides. Ok London. 6 months. Here we go!
Before we moved to London, I studied the open mic scene by looking up social media posts and blogs. I gathered my info. We landed on a Saturday and after jet lag wore off, we found our way to the Wednesday night open mic at The Distillers in Hammersmith. It was within walking distance from our flat and I found it on a local open mic website. My partner found a password for the drink specials on Twitter! Nice! Acoustify Wednesdays was awesome from the first moment that I stepped foot inside the upstairs bar. There was an Australian man, a traveling singer/songwriter, singing an awesomely written song in a beautiful falsetto. More amazing talented artists followed. The audience listens and I met great musicians and traveling artists,I learned that Acoustify was a collective of open mics, 3 nights a week, in different locations throughout the city. Hammersmith, Acton, and Clapham all had the privilege of hosting Acoustify and experiencing the awesome acoustic talent and loop pedal tricks of Mic, the host. I knew an hour after I shook his hand that he was a great host.
I’ve written about hosts before, how important they are to the success of an event. Even in a new city, the rules are the same. Mic makes everyone feel welcome and he also manages to gather an impressive group of performing artists of all genres and nationalities, with varying levels of experience and time spent studying the craft. He has a house guitar and piano at his Wednesday event. His buddy Tyler plays the cajon. Everyone can find their niche when Mic is in charge of the microphone. I’ve met emcees, R&B divas, beginner guitar enthusiasts, blues harmonica gurus, comedians, reggae strummers, and every open mic archetype that could write their name on the list. Baz, a well traveled storyteller, and the resident photographer (https://www.facebook.com/PicsByBaz), weaves seamlessly in and out of the standing room crowd to capture the stage. The beautiful tattooed French speaking bartender, Anna, is a ball of entertainment. They are just a few of the familiar faces at the event.
After speaking with the host at his event, I knew he would be a great person to help me find other venues, gigs, etc. Without him, I wouldn’t have played my brunch gig at Down to Earth on Kensington High Street. He and I became friends because we both work from home and fancy a dog walk through Ravenscourt every mid-morning. Our animals were BFFs (RIP Cosmo) and we (dogs and humans) all enjoyed the exercise and greenery on our strolls through Ravenscourt Park.
One week, the host asked me to fill in for him and host Acoustify on Tuesday night at Gigalum in Clapham. Acoustify also does good business by working with the venue to have food and drink specials. I was not nervous about drawing a crowd with offers of free drinks for performers and tacos for £1. One more night of
the week for rocking, the Thursday night Acoustify is also close to me in West London. There is a flirtatious chef and an entirely different group of audience members and musicians. Sometimes, there is a featured performer or a band passing though. The sound system is pretty impressive. You can’t go wrong with Acoustify. There are a few of us who hop around to all three
I know there are more amazing open mics, in other parts of town, featuring other types of performers, new faces, etc. I’ve done a little traveling around. I performed my first show in 2015 at JUNO Bar in East London.
The Vortex is a closed mic of 20 acapella poets/artists and a continuous performance. It’s 2 awesome acts of punchlines and emotions hosted by Natalie “The Floacist” Stewart. It was a sweaty night of basement soul and spoken word. And the dopest DJ spinning Aaliyah, new D’Angelo, Q-Tip, and Busta Rhymes. Before I leave this city, I will do more exploring. As a singer/songwriter passing though and looking for my tribe, I’m very pleased with the folks that I’ve met and even more excited by my options every week. This city is large and full of talent. It can be overwhelming, but it is possible to tap into the London music scene. I think Acoustify is a great place to start.
One of my favorite performers from the Distillers.