My last musical adventure of 2016 didn’t get posted until now – pleading holiday chaos for the delay.
Once a month (or so) on a Thursday (or Friday) the Berlin Bicycle Café serves up a participatory evening of music along with gourmet treats and coffee. Hosted by Janice Jo Lee, the open mic starts off with 10 minute sets – music and spoken word/poetry welcome – and has a feature performer half way through the evening.
Last night Vienna D’Amato Hall filled the feature spot with her haunting tunes. A surprise bonus in the second half of the open mic was a few songs by Alysha Brilla who generously had us all sing along.
Graham, owner of the Berlin Bicycle Café (there are actual bikes downstairs), also hosts concerts at his venue. Check out the FB page for upcoming concert dates and future open mics.
[Berlin Bicycle Café, 701 Belmont Ave W, Waterloo; once or twice/month 7-11ish; $6/pwyc cover]
Fans of the Boathouse in Kitchener will know that it closed rather abruptly in September of 2013. After a bidding competition to operate the venue and several lengthy delays, the Boathouse is open for business – and music. I only realized it had re-opened its doors this month when I went to see Kate & Rich cast their Klezmer-infused accordion and clarinet spell on a packed house on January 28th. While enjoying the show I learned that the Boathouse offers a weekly open mic as well as a regular roster of live performances.
The staff is friendly, the food is good (drink menu is full of music-themed concoctions), and there is plenty of talent at the Thursday night open mic. There is a rotation of musicians that take on hosting duties. This week it was Jeremy Stuart. Doors open at 8pm, sign-up starts at 9 pm. This week, the music started sometime after 9 and it was characterized by its diversity, including hip hop performer aNaTomy , bluesy/country singer & guitar play Joshua David and the sweet saxophone sounds of Samson Grey.
Sitting at the table with my trio comrades, we weren’t sure our style was going to fit with the loud ambient sound of the busy venue and plugged in performances of the other musicians. But we received a heartwarming response to our combo of three part harmony, guitar, uke & washboard. We definitely want to go back for some possible musical collaboration.
A couple of open mic suggestions from this fun-packed evening: Imbibe on Sunday evenings and Maxwell’s (in its new location). One adventure leads to another…
[The Boathouse, 57 Jubillee Drive, Kitchener; every Thursday 9ish – 1am; $2 cover; licensed]
Wordfest is one of Elora’s hidden gems. Twice a year, local and visiting guest writers share their works of prose and poetry in a school room turned art gallery, hosted by Donna McCaw. It is a treat for the imagination to sit back and listen to the authors paint images with words.
Among the many published and emerging writers, two featured writers read from their works: Alisa Kay, author of Under Budapest, and Andrew Hood, award-winning short story writer.
Watch the Elora Centre for the Arts website for the spring edition of Wordfest or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
I’m going to throw this out as a challenge to see if anyone will correct me: I have it on good authority (Bill Heffernan of Gate 403 fame) that Fat Alberts Coffeehouse is the longest running open stage in North America. Starting out in a church basement in 1967, this weekly open stage has been at the United Steelworkers Union Building on Cecil Street for about 10 years now. Some of the musicians in attendance had stories to tell of the event as it unfolded over 30 years ago which added personal perspective to the club’s longevity.
All levels are welcome and all genres (including classical guitar, blues, spoken word, covers, original tunes). The atmosphere is relaxed and supportive. Tony, on sound, and Mary, our MC, made sure everything moves along quickly & smoothly, with minimal down time between performers. In addition to vocal mics and instrument plug-ins, there is also a keyboard for performers to use. Part way through the evening there is a half hour feature set. This week’s feature performer was Glen Hornblast who entertained us with stories and original tunes.
[Fat Albert’s Coffee House, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto; every Wednesday 8-11pm, sign up after 7:00; $2 cover, coffee & tea available]
After my first experience of Wordfest at the Elora Centre for the Arts I couldn’t wait for it to come around again. Combining poetry, story-telling and performance art, this event, hosted by Donna McCaw, celebrates the spoken word. Personal and poignant to rib tickling cleverness, each performer brought their own voice, their own style to the room.
Like any open mic, one of the fun aspects of Wordfest is that you don’t know whom you’ll be listening to until you are seated in the the old classroom waiting for the words – an adventure I highly recommend. With poetry and other writing for sale, you can take some of the evening home with you to revisit at your leisure.
[Wordfest, Elora Centre for the Arts, 75 Melville Street, Elora, twice/year, $6 cover, doors open @ 7 pm]