An open mic night provides the opportunity for an amateur musician to play in front of a live audience, a singer-songwriter to showcase new tunes or an aspiring comic to try out new material. It’s also a place for anyone to go and listen to up-and-coming local talent for free.
Several venues in the greater Petaluma area offer regularly scheduled open mic nights — some weekly and others once a month.
One of the newest of these events started last November at Red Brick, a downtown gastropub next to the Petaluma River. It is hosted every Monday night by Robert Joseph and his wife, Sonya.
“It’s a great place for performers to come and cut their teeth,” said Joseph, a musician who often accompanies performers on harmonica. “We get a diverse range of musical types.”
He said that 90 percent of the performers are musicians, ranging from solo and duos to full-fledged bands. The other 10 percent are mostly poets, comedians or storytellers.
Every week, there is a featured act that performs for 30 minutes. Everyone else who signs up gets 10 minutes on stage.
He encourages young people to come and perform.
“We recently had a 15-year-old high school girl sing and play the ukulele,” he says. “If you can get children to focus on something artistic, they are less inclined to get involved in drugs and gangs.”
Joseph’s wife, Sonya, handles the signups and the sound board, and also records all of the performers.
Joseph posts videos of the entire set of six-to-eight songs by the featured artist on his Red Brick open mic Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rojoandsojosopenmic). He also produces an audio CD of the featured performer.
“That’s my way of compensating them,” he said. “I don’t think any musician should play for more than 15 minutes without some kind of pay.”
He also posts videos of all of the other performers on his Facebook page.
A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in neuroscience, Joseph has studied the circadian rhythms of the human body. His company, MediMuse, develops products that translate an individual’s internal states into soundscapes. He creates music to help calm a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, help a baby sleep or relieve post-traumatic stress anxiety in a military veteran.
“I believe in the magic and medicine of music,” he says.
At the end of each open mic night, Joseph and his wife award one of the performers a $25 gift certificate from Silly Strings, a local music store.
“The best act does not necessarily win,” he allows. “We have a different reason for someone receiving it. One night we gave it to someone who sang an AC/DC song while playing the ukulele. Another time we awarded someone who sang a song that made my wife cry.”
One of the longest-running open mics in town is held the second Sunday of every month in the social hall of the United Methodist Church. Petaluma Live! started in 2009, according to host Bob Johns.
Johns is an accomplished piano and horn player who performs with several groups. He usually starts the evenings by playing a few songs with regulars like Steve Della Maggiora on guitar, Al Sinerco on drums and Gardner Bride on trumpet.
OPEN MICS AT A GLANCE
The Big Easy, 128 American Alley. Second and fourth Tuesdays, 7 p.m. on. Next events are Nov 6 and 20.
Ray’s Delicatessen & Tavern, 900 Western Ave. Every other Wednesday, 6 to 9 p.m. Next event is Nov. 14.
Red Brick, 101 Second St. Every Monday night. Sign-ups at 6 p.m., performances from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Redwood Café, 8420 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati. Second Monday through the last Monday of each month. 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Roaring Donkey, 146 Kentucky St. Every Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Tomales Town Hall, 27150 Maine St, Tomales. Second Thursday. Sign-ups at 6 p.m., performances from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
United Methodist Church social hall, 410 D St. Second Sunday of every month, 6:30 to 9 p.m.