After 5 years of reading at open mics, I haven’t seen it all but I’ve seen a lot.
So far, I’ve read in 14 cities, across eight states, mostly at bars and coffee shops, but also a few community arts centers, art galleries, a grilled cheese shop, and a museum. Somehow I haven’t yet read at a library or a bookstore, but expect that’ll happen as my quest continues.
As I look for open mics across the country, a unique venue is a huge draw. One I’m hoping to get to this June doesn’t even have a venue—just a street corner in San Francisco. That one is an absolute must-do.
But honestly, I’m beginning to think that open mic venues are like cats: There are no ordinary ones.
If there is a true stage, it’s usually small—some with nothing but a single mic. But I’ve seen a few tricked out with multiple mics and inputs, crazy-good speakers, and even a piano.
Often the stage is just implied—it’s a rug on the floor or just a corner of the room toward which all the chairs are turned to face.
I’ve read poetry standing in front of intense sketches of Tom Waits (see above), paintings of aliens, and Dr. Seuss posters. I’ve shared stages with weird furniture, with an amazing 5-piece jazz band, and once, bizarrely, with a nuevo flamenco band and a Zora Neale Hurston impersonator.
I’ve read over the sound of cappuccino machines, pool tables, happy drunks, and once (at an Irish bar) a back room bagpipe rehearsal.
Now, I ask you: Where else could you be more likely to find more color, greater surprise, or a higher jumping-off point for your left brain?
This, friends, is why I leave every open mic with a headful of ideas, why I spin for an hour afterward unable to sleep, and why I will always be going back.