Believe it or not, some well-known B.C. artists have started out doing open mics before getting to where they are today, including the lovely Carly Rae Jepsen, the exciting Vancouver band Hey Ocean! and even the 2010 Juno-nominated twins Carmen & Camille!
Open mic nights are a great way for musicians to not only showcase their established work, but also to experiment with new songs or works-in-progress. Whether you’re a rising star, an artist who’s starting out, or just wanting to play music for the fun of it, the stage is always open for those who enjoy playing in front of an audience, earning smiles one song at a time. In this issue, we mention some of Vancouver’s well-known open mic spots that are available for your musical needs and pleasure.
The Libra Room
1608 Commercial Drive
When: Mondays from 9 pm to Midnight
Though used to going to the Libra Room to witness highlights from the local jazz scene, I was curious to see how this bar would reinvent itself as host to one of the city’s many open mic nights. Every Monday, this jazz club lends its stage to a structured jam session with various blues, rock, folk and jazz acts. Performers are asked to sign up before 9pm and entrance is free to all. A donation jar did, however, circulate early in the night, which seemed to be both a reasonable and a discretionary option.
Performers came in a range of numbers and skill levels, playing original pieces and cover songs from such groups as the White Stripes, the Byrds, and the Beatles. Although talent varied, the quality range remained somewhat minimal; worth noting for those who seek out open mic nights as a place of sanctuary for drunken bellowing. Indeed, there seemed to be an element of judgement in this location; a sort of performance standard absorbed in the marble table-top decor and a definite sobriety in the drink prices. Most apparently, the Libra Room is a place you come to support your friends who are musically inclined, or at least a place for a Monday night conversation and cocktail. Although relatively casual, the Libra Room is far from embracing any sort of musical debauchery and conversely succeeds as a reputable location for musicians to mingle and jam in a respectful, fun atmosphere.
— Alexandra de Boer
1943 Cornwall Avenue
When: Tuesdays from 8:30pm to 12:30am
The Corduroy Lounge is located in the beautiful Kitsilano neighbourhood on Cornwall Street, between the Burrard Bridge and Kits Beach. Hosted by the musically awesome David Morin and a tall, talented guy name Mike, the Corduroy Lounge open mic has a very relaxed, candle-lit atmosphere. You don’t even necessarily need to bring an instrument to the venue, both a piano and a drum kit are available. From a musician’s perspective, the sound system is excellent as they have a good quality speakers and monitors.
You’ll often see the regulars, including acoustic six-string virtuoso Don Alder and actor/singer Gary Chalk, showcasing their amazing skills and delivering high-energy performances that will blow you away. Definitely a place worth checking out. I’d also recommend you stay for the food and drink specials.
— Eddie Lam
Rowan’s Roof Restaurant & Lounge
2340 West 4th Avenue
When: Wednesdays from 9 pm to Midnight
I showed up at Rowan’s Roof at 7:30, planning to have some tea and get some work done before the action started. As it turns out, it’s not really that kind of place. The large open space, tiled floor, and curtained stage at the front give the restaurant what my pal Mark called “an empty gymnasium feel.” Rather than tea, I took advantage of the good Wednesday night special: $4 draft beer and 40 cent wings.
Things got started around 8:45. I got the impression that it would be a lot of fun to perform here—the sound quality is good, and even though the crowd is chatty, the ambient noise doesn’t overwhelm the music. Ian, the night’s organizer, is extremely accommodating and helps performers with set-up.
By 10 the place was hopping and there seemed to be lots of regulars who were happy to back each other up with some guitar or sick beats. Guitar covers dominated the night, interspersed with some hip-hop freestyling now and again. The performers were also almost exclusively men. When I left a little after 11, the first woman of the night took the stage to be Rhianna to her friend’s Eminem on “Love the Way You Lie.” Talented women, here’s a chance to represent and score some cheap wings on a Wednesday night.
— Chandra Martini
Café Deux Soleil
2096 Commercial Drive
When: Thursdays from 9pm to 12:30am
This open mic night needs no introduction at all, but for the uninitiated, Café Deux Soleil is one of Commercial Drive’s iconic hot spots for live entertainment. It’s one of the most packed open mics in town, with a diverse roster of musicians vying to showcase their talent.
Instead of the first-come, first-serve system employed at many open mics, Café Deux Soleil draws names out of a jug, due to the high volume of musicians that show up. Fifteen lucky musicians get picked per night and get the chance to play their music in front of the spot’s large crowd. Even if your name doesn’t get picked, it stays in the jug, guaranteeing you a spot eventually. It’s a fair way to give a variety of musicians a chance to play.
And from a business perspective, considering the always-excellent turnout, this spot is a great way to increase your fanbase and network with other musicians.
Additionally, not only do you get a good dose of music, but you also get to buy some yummy vegetarian treats and sugar-coated goodies to indulge your sweet tooth. I encourage any musician and music fan, particularly those who adore Commercial Drive, to come to a place that makes Thursday the new Friday.
— Eddie Lam