The Advocate Guide to Open Mics in the Pioneer Valley!

Crowd at Luthier's, Nov. 1.
Brett Felix reads during a poetry open mic Oct. 31 at the World War II Club. Jerrey Roberts photo
Tara Bernier hosts a poetry open mic Oct. 31 at the World War II Club. Jerrey Roberts photo
Juanita Mic, the house band at Theodore's open jam in Springfield, jam together on a weekly basis. Chris Goudreau photo
Matthew Thornton, left, and Rob Maher perform during an open mic at Luthier's, Nov. 1. Jerrey Roberts photo
Karina Miller sings during an open mic at Luthier's, Nov. 1. Jerrey Roberts photo
Jamila Gore reads during a poetry open mic Oct. 31 at the World War II Club. Jerrey Roberts photo

Luthier’s open mic. Jerrey Roberts photo

The Pioneer Valley is home not only to a bountiful music scene, but to dozens of open mics where artistic communities blossom. Open mics are places where the generational lines between artists blur while they’re jamming out to a bluesy ballad or talking about their favorite Beatles album. Open mics can be a mixed bag at times — you might hear a jaw dropping original song followed by one of worst renditions of your favorite song. But whether it’s high art or lowbrow entertainment, open mics foster an atmosphere of excitement and mystery. Who knows what the next person on the sign-up sheet will be playing? Here’s the Valley Advocate’s guide to local open mics, from intimate acoustic coffeehouse performances to rocking loud jams.

— Chris Goudreau 

MONDAY

Opa Opa Open Mic
169 College Highway, Southampton
Opa Opa Steakhouse & Brewery
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

It was a dreary autumn night outside, but the music was thriving at Opa Opa’s Monday open mic night. Eva Cappelli, who started the open mic night and has hosted it for about five  years, will be on a hiatus through April. That evening was her last open mic before taking a road trip with her husband through Louisiana and Texas, playing at gigs and open mics, until she returns to the Pioneer Valley in the spring. In the meantime, she said she had a long list of local musicians ready to keep the open mic going every week while she’s away.

The house band for the night consisted of bass, conga drums, electric guitar, and pedal steel guitar. One person played a folk-tinged set of covers that ranged from a Ryan Adams tune to a rendition of “Under the Milky Way” by 1980s Australian alternative rock band, “The Church.”

Cappelli, who’s been hosted open mics for a decade, said although that night was a little slow, the week prior was bustling. There have been times when the open mic has gone beyond its 10 p.m. shut off time and ended at midnight.

“There’s a lot of musicians in this area,” she said. “When you go to places like Nashville where there’s an overabundance of musicians it’s just really hard to play at an open mic. It’s just overly saturated. And it’s hard to find good talent, honestly. I think we have much better talent out here. I was shocked when I went to Nashville. I was like, ‘Gosh, the open mics up here are better.’”

A man beside me munched on a double hamburger at the western themed restaurant and brew pub. Butch Cassidy’s eyes from a replica wanted poster seemed to stare at me from inside the bar table as I anxiously waited to go on stage.

I was the first person to perform that night and decided to play an original a cappella crooner song called “Kazenski 3:17” and a new song that I had just written that doesn’t have a title yet that’s heavily inspired by John Lennon. When I sang the song, the room’s atmosphere quickly changed from a loud bar to a quiet and focused audience. Performing a cappella has a magic quality.

Next up was Gracie Aiudi, a 12-year-old from Easthampton with a voice straight off a 1960s souls record. She was backed up by the house band and performed classic songs like “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Blue Bayou,” and Etta James’ “At Last.”

She said she’s been singing since she was 7 and started coming to the open mic this past summer.

“I love the live band,” Aiudi said. “It’s so easy going here being able to play and be around other musicians and hear other musicians.”

The last act I saw that night was none other than Eva Cappelli herself. Cappelli spans musical genres with ease. One moment you might be listening to a tears in your beer country tune, the next a bluesy ballad with fiery vocals. After she performed, many of the night’s performers gathered together for a group photo and wished Cappelli safe travels on her musical cross country journey.

— Chris Goudreau

OTHER MONDAY MICS

The Rendezvous
78 3rd St., Turners Falls
2nd and 4th Monday of each month
Open mic starts at 8 p.m. (Sign-up at 7:30 p.m.)

TUESDAY

Poetry Open Mic at The World War II Club
50 Conz St., Northampton,
Open Mic is 8 to 9 p.m. (Sign-up at 7 p.m.)

Brett Felix reads during a poetry open mic Oct. 31 at the World War II Club. Jerrey Roberts photo

When I walked into the World War II Club (“The Deuce”) in Northampton on Tuesday evening, I was greeted by a stormtrooper and a rock and roll skeleton. I figured that the poetry open mic would be a little colorful given it was Halloween, and I was not mistaken. The bar was pretty empty, so I made my way back to the banquet room to find the bards.

Northampton Poetry has been hosting open mics since 2012. Every Tuesday the signup sheet is available at 7 p.m. and poetry starts at 8. After an hour of performers, there is a short break and then either a featured poet performs or there is a poetry slam where two poets compete head-to-head. Tara Bernier has been the host and slammaster since just about the beginning.

“I walked into an open mic and I never left,” Bernier said.

This week, Bernier greeted guests at the door dressed as Amethyst from the TV show “Steven Universe,” complete with flowing, lilac hair and a gemstone. The cover charge for the open mic is $4 ($3 for students), which covers the cost of paying featured poets.

While Bernier’s welcome was warm and friendly, the banquet room was a little formal and sparse for me, and I found myself wishing that it was cozier. That said, I heard stories about times when people would sign up hours in advance because the event was so crowded, so maybe there were just a lot absent trick-or-treaters.

It was a diverse crowd that night, and Brenier mentioned that they often have people ranging in age from 15 to 70. As the open mic started, it was clear that there were a lot of returning performers, and that there was a strong community bond between many of the people reading. The group laughed about inside jokes just as easily as they applauded newcomers.

Tara Bernier hosts a poetry open mic Oct. 31 at the World War II Club. Jerrey Roberts photo

The poems touched on a variety of themes, including getting older, Spock from “Star Trek” (the poet was dressed as such), sex, and Halloween. I was particularly moved by Jamila Gore’s poem about her negative experiences with men she has met on the dating app Tinder. Gore is a spoken word artist, so her work is written to be performed, and it showed. The audience reacted with snaps and whoops of approval throughout the piece. For me, seeing her perform her poem in person was a lot more powerful than just reading it on the page, and Gore said that getting audience and poet responses to her work is important for improvement.

Over all, the open mic felt very supportive. The cover charge and the banquet room location meant that only people who wanted to be there were there. Being an audience member felt a little bit like peeking in at a group of friends. The sense of community is what allows the performers to be vulnerable, because they know that they are in a space where their work will be respected.

— Meg Bantle

OTHER TUESDAY MICS

Jamila Gore reads during a poetry open mic Oct. 31 at the World War II Club. Jerrey Roberts photo

UMass Amherst U-Pub Open Mic
1 Campus Center Way, Amherst
Open Mic is 7 to 9 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Patti’s 410 Lounge
32 Quincy Ave., Chicopee
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

New City Brewery CULT Monthly Themed Open Mic  
108 Pleasant St., Easthampton
Open Mic is the last Tuesday of the month from 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Luthier’s Co-op Tuesday Open Mic
108 Cottage St., Easthampton
Open Mic is 8:30 to 11 p.m. (Sign-up at 8 p.m.)

Spoken Word Open Mic
Human Error Publishing
9 Mill St., Greenfield
3rd Tuesday of each month
Open Mic is 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)
$1 to $5 suggested donation

Bishop’s Lounge
41 Strong Ave., 3rd Floor, Northampton
Open Mic is 7 to 10:30 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Northampton Jazz Workshop
City Sports Grille at Spare Time
525 Pleasant St., Northampton
Featured artist at 7:30 p.m. followed by jam session at 8:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY

Theodore’s BBQ – Juanita Open Jam
201 Worthington St., Springfield
Open Mic is 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (sign-up at 9:30 p.m.)

It was a little after 10 p.m. as I opened the door to Theodore’s BBQ on Worthington Street in downtown Springfield to hear bluesy electric guitar solos mixed with funky keyboards, rollicking and rocking drums, and melodic bass playing from Juanita Mic, the house band for Theodore’s Wednesday Open Jam.

Juanita Mic, the house band at Theodore’s open jam in Springfield,
jam together on a weekly basis. Chris Goudreau photo

Every week, Juanita Mic, led by bassist Jeff King, guitarist Tommy Whalen, drummer Ed Balon, and keyboardist John Corda, jam out for an opening set starting at 10 p.m. before opening up the stage to singers, guitarists, drummers, and any other possible musical act until closing time at 1 a.m.

King sang an upbeat rock version of “Maggie’s Farm” by Bob Dylan, during the house band’s opening 40-minute set.  A woman in a dyed tied dress danced along to the music during the band’s set while the scent of buttery popcorn, Theodore’s version of free dinner bread, wafted through the air.

The sign-up sheet was nearly filled when I arrived and included a drummer nicknamed “Twink,” who was up first. He played along to a rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” sung by Whalen and a soulful blues ballad. The next person  that followed sang another Dylan tune, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

King, who’s been hosting the open jam for close to a decade, told me that Juanita Mic is a place where anyone can stop in to perform regardless of their musical ability, genre of music, or whether they’re playing original songs or cover tunes.

The name for the open mic comes from a friend of his named Juanita Duran, a drummer who passed away several years ago, who frequently attended the open jam, King said.

“He was a pain in the ass to most people,” King said with a chuckle. “He was funny as fuck. He’d get up there and say, ‘Ah, I’m the best drummer. He’d say all of these funny things in the microphone. He was sort of hard to deal with at times, but I never wanted to turn anyone down ever. He was here early with his drumsticks and ready to play. So, it made his night to get up there and do a few tunes. That’s what the jam’s about.”

— Chris Goudreau

Luthier’s Co-op Wednesday Open Mic
108 Cottage St., Easthampton
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Matthew Thornton, left, and Rob Maher perform during an open mic at Luthier’s, Nov. 1. Jerrey Roberts photo

The first thing I did when I got to Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton Wednesday night was ogle their brand new full bar. Luthier’s recently expanded into an adjacent space on Cottage Street and now has a full bar and liquor license. The new bar just adds to the ambience that the original space already had. By day, Luthier’s is a full service repair shop and trading post for stringed instruments. By night, it hosts two of the most popular open mics in the Pioneer Valley.

I am actually a regular audience member at Luthier’s Tuesday night open mic because my partner is a musician, but last week we changed things up and went on Wednesday. Bobby Demers and Dan Russell host the evening, which, judging by the crowd, is really popular. By 6:15 p.m. the list of 20 names was already half full and the room was bustling with people grabbing a beer or tuning their instruments. For musicians and audience members one of the main draws of this open mic is the environment. Guitars and stringed instruments of all shapes and sizes line the walls, interspersed with photos of music legends. Demers described the shop as a chapel, where music is sacred, and I can’t disagree.

Karina Miller sings during an open mic at Luthier’s, Nov. 1. Jerrey Roberts photo

As the music got started, a hush came over the audience, and a little side-eye was thrown at anyone who didn’t get the memo that this was a space for music appreciation, not chit chat. The performers played a range of originals and covers, but most of the music could be classified as folk or rock. Many performers were accompanied Ron Shepard on the pedal steel guitar, which added a mournful undertone to many of the tunes. One of my favorite songs was an original by Peter Curro called “Backyard Desert Dreams” that included the line, “Can I count on you, my six stringed friend, to get this wanderlust around the bend.”

All of the performers I spoke to talked about how much their music has improved since performing at the venue.

“It’s like a greenhouse for music,” said Carina Miller, who is also known as Botanica Wilde.

Other performers agreed. Co-host and performer Russell said that the stage is where “the rubber meets the road,” and that he learns a lot from seeing all of the other musicians perform. I would highly recommend either of the open mics at Luthier’s Co-op to all musicians and music appreciators.

— Meg Bantle 

OTHER WEDNESDAY MICS

The Harp Irish Pub
163 Sunderland Rd., Amherst
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Beatnik Monthly Open Mic
The Ashfield Lake House
141 Buckland Rd., Ashfield
Open Mic is the 2nd Wednesday of each month
Starts at 7:30 p.m. (sign-up at 7 p.m.)

Patrick’s Acoustic Open Mic
154 School St., Chicopee
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Brew Practitioners
36 Main St., Florence
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:45 p.m.)

Bishop’s Lounge Wednesday Comedy Open Mic
41 Strong Ave., 3rd Floor, Northampton
Open Mic starts at 7 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.) 21+

Skyline Trading Company
124 Elm St., Westfield
1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month
Open Mic is 6 to 8 p.m. (Sign-up at 5:30 p.m.)

THURSDAY

Underdogs Lounge Open Mic
10 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls
1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month  
Open Mics are 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Walking down the stairs of Underdogs Lounge on Thursday night felt like going to a basement show. The small subterranean  music venue, bar, and restaurant is reminiscent of a speakeasy, but with modern artwork adorning the walls, where you can order a homemade raspberry soda with a slice of lime or a menu full of hot dogs.

This type of open mic is designed for listening. A small group of people sat close to the stage as host Phil Nolan of Ashfield sang a folky tune on his traveler guitar. The night featured a variety of performers, including a former veteran turned poet, a punk rocker bucking the trend by playing distorted electric guitar, acoustic original performers, and a man who jammed out on his acoustic guitar to jazz backing tracks.

Nolan has been hosting the first Thursday of the month open mic for a year. The other open mic, which takes place on the third Thursday of the month, is geared towards poetry, comedy and literary performances.

Eric Wasileski, a 45-year-old veteran and a poet from Shelburne Falls who’s attended the open mic four times over the past six months, said he enjoys the blend of music and poetry featured at Underdogs Lounge. Wasileski performed original poems such as “Just War” and “Talking about War,” about the impacts of post traumatic stress on soldiers who have returned home.

“This is the one place that I’ve seen where the different genres blend seamlessly,” he said. “Even sometimes guys who come down regularly will bring a guitar one month and the next month will bring something else. It’s never the same.”

Dave Welson of Shelburne Falls played a heavily distorted electric guitar and one of the most punk sets I’ve ever seen at an open mic. He opened with a song called “God Hates Me/ One Angry Jesus,” and ended his set by saying, “Okay, I’ve got one more … Hail Satan,” which was a cover of the Mountain Goats song, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.”

Underdogs Lounge Co-Owner Tanya Bryant said she opened the venue alongside co-owner Margaret Fitzpatrick more than a year ago. They were inspired to open up the restaurant/bar performance space partially to use the room as a practice space for their all-female rock band, “She Said.”

“As a musician trying to get up the nerve, this is a really supportive open mic,” Bryant said. “People get up here who are 63 years old and have never played in front of people before.”

—  Chris Goudreau

OTHER THURSDAY MICS

The Marina
28 Spring Tree Rd., Brattleboro, Vermont
Open Mic is 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

TNT Pizza Open Mic
548 South St., Holyoke,
Open Mic is 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Sign-up at 7:30 p.m.)

Yellow Sofa Open Mic at the Thirsty Mind
The Thirsty Mind Coffee and Wine Bar
23 College St. #6, Village Commons, South Hadley
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign up at 6:30 p.m.) 

Southwick Inn Open Mic
479 College Highway, Southwick
Open Mic is 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Sign-up at 7:30 p.m.)

FRIDAY

Open Door Cafe Monthly Open Mic
247 Cady St., Ludlow
1st Friday of the month
Open mic is 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Sign-up at 8:30 p.m.)

Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe Open Mic
235 Main St., Northampton
Open Mic is 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. (Sign-up at 7 p.m.)

Triple Creek Coffeehouse Monthly Open Mic
Palmer Historical and Cultural Center
2072 Main St., Three Rivers, Palmer  
Last Friday of each month
Open Mic is 7 to 9 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

Workshop 13 Open Mic
13 Cultural Arts & Learning Center
13 Church St., Ware
3rd Friday of each month
Open Mic is 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Sign-up at 6 p.m.)
$5 cover charge

SATURDAY

Bridges Coffeehouse Open Mic
The First Congregational Church of Amherst
165 Main St., Amherst
Open Mic is 3 to 5 p.m. (Sign-up at 2:30 p.m.)

Montague Common Hall Monthly Open Mic
34 Main St., Montague
2nd Saturday of each month
Open Mic is 7 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.)

SUNDAY

Whiskerz Pub Open Mic
75 Cottage St., Easthampton
2nd and last Sunday of each month
Open Mic is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Sign-up at 10:30 a.m.)

Bishop’s Lounge Sunday Comedy Open Mic
41 Strong Ave., 3rd Floor, Northampton
Open Mic is 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Sign-up at 7 p.m.) 21+

Southwick Inn Blues Jam – Hosted by Cold Shot
479 College Highway, Southwick
Last Sunday of the month
Blues Jam is 6 to 10 p.m. (Sign-up at 5:30 p.m.)

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