It takes a special kind of courage to play an instrument and/or sing alone. This is unlike being able to hide behind a band or an obscenely loud guitar amplifier. Open Mic Night is a venue for musicians to play a few songs without having to put on a concert. It’s where lesser known musical newbies and veterans alike have a place to bare their souls to the public.
Recently, I spent an evening at Cafe Marc Aurel’s Open Mic and was shocked at how different it was from others I’d been to in Lahaina and Kihei.
The event started with a poet reciting a few of his own. He was in the minority at this open mic. Most of the entertainment was music, and predominantly made by women. But the poetry fit like a glove on this occasion.
Next was a flutist—this woman was having a great time doing her thing on stage. You could tell by the expression on her face that she lived for this. Then came a few different acoustic guitar-playing singers.
When one of the performers started singing a folk ballad about road rage, I tuned out for a bit. Not everything is a gem at open mics and it’s all subjective to taste. My date and I instead talked about the different open mic nights we’ve been to and participated in.
What made this one unique was the complete lack of electric guitar heroes. This was a welcome occurrence. As pointed out by Russ Reina, a.k.a. “Firetender,” the mood at the Cafe was nonjudgmental; the various performers were very encouraging towards one another. I couldn’t agree more.
This could explain why the audience was so unusually receptive to the artists—unusual, because this is not the case at other open mics. At some events, it’s a misplaced competition between the performers and the hosts—almost a subtle battle of the egos.
Another complaint I have is listening to the same covers, especially when they’re butchered with half-buzzed arrogance. No wonder the audience at such open mics gets detached from the music. Once in a while you do get to hear something genuinely creative. When this happens I’m reminded of why I showed up in the first place.
Open mics come and go, especially on the West Side. Eric’s Seafood offered one for a few years, and changed hosts more often than I could keep up. Dave Carroll took the helm shortly before the establishment went out of business.
I liked the direction that particular Open Mic Night was going in that short time. As I remember, original artists would be allowed to play more songs than artists doing cover songs. To me original music should be the whole point.
On busier nights, all the performers played with a time limit. On slower nights, the real hams and guitar shredders would go on and on.
Back at Cafe Marc Aurel, Firetender began singing a reflective song about “sending our kids to war.” He said expressing these opinions was what motivated him to perform. “I have a chance to communicate with an audience that I wouldn’t otherwise get at open mic,” he said.
As I finished my chocolate marquis and double espresso, a rasta belted out a reggae tune. He was out of key, but sincere. More customers were walking in looking for a table and I didn’t want to be a table hog anymore than I already had so I left. MTW