I adore the concept of an Open Mic Night. Always have.
Quick cuts of music dished out by locally known and unknown musicians, cutting their teeth, finding their voice, working out a new song, an old song, or just singing to sing, because some like singing more than wine.
And the rush is twice as potent.
That’s the feeling I got recently walking into the 2nd official “Open Mic Night with Andrew North and The Rangers” at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord. If there’s one band that deserves a tip of the cap for all the work they did promoting and contributing to the Concord music scene in 2023, it’s Andrew and his beautiful Rangers. Bravo, people. Bravo.
“It’s a privilege to provide that space,” said Andrew North from Concord, who started hosting open mic nights two years ago. “To share and perform and to be welcomed and accepted. That’s unfortunately rare in our culture.”
So, how does an open mic night work?
An open mic is a first come first sing type deal. They run on the first Wednesday of each month and go from 7-11 p.m. at the Bank of NH. The earlier you get there, the sooner you get to sing and sweat it out.
You have three songs, or 15 minutes, to perform. These songs are chosen wisely, with intent. From bedroom singers to barnyard barkers, to the young girl that sings to the rafters in her Nissan Juke heading home from work, these folks of all ages – and some seasoned road dogs – put their names down and wait.
Then, they hit the stage like it was Madison Square Garden. That’s the gist.
“Having the opportunity as a solo artist or a band to do a set on this stage brings it to a whole new level,” said singer-songwriter, Joe Messineo, who dueted with Matt Goodness four acts into the night. “The sound, the lights, the atmosphere, everyone that steps on the stage gets their 15 minutes of fame.”
On this night, the feeling throughout the Bank of NH Stage felt much bigger than I anticipated. I wanted to get out of the house. I needed a jolt, a kick in the mouth. And this was the boot, an abundance of richness and color and sound that caught me completely off guard.
Messineo hadn’t even appeared before I was slapped in the face by this incredible, and I mean downright tremendous performance by this high school artist named DJames. Ridiculously good hip hop/rapper, electronic instrumentalist.
I was sold, sold on it all, and I hadn’t even taken my coat off yet.
Then, Ranger Dale introduced Kacie Clark and she came out with a cover of the classic “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. She did a great job on a song I need never hear sung again. Isn’t that ironic? But, every time, I’m shamefully singing on the inside to its chorus. Not sure if that was Kacie’s first or tenth time at an open mic, but she owned her three songs, and the crowd loved her.
The crowd! Yes, I almost forgot.
A perfect layout for a hearty Wednesday night gathering, with six round-top tables in front of the stage, giving off a very cool lounge feel. Each table was filled quickly. The back had six rows down from the rack, a perfect amount of space and height to catch the acts. Comfortable and engaging, listening, and watching the artists come and go.
At sports bars, coffee shops or breweries, where lots of open mic nights occur, TVs are everywhere, and incessant chatter is expected. The vibe at the Bank of NH Stage was hardly stuffy, but the people were there solely for the music. Not for the games, news, or beans.
Plus, watching musicians play from a stage where the sound and lighting was on steroids compared to that of your average open mic venue, the performances commands one’s full attention.
Andrew North agrees. “Your energy as a performer is going to carry out to the audience,” said North. “Especially in this setting, where all eyes are on the stage.”
There’s no specific genre of music at an open mic. Misty, rugged, jazzed or jammed. All are a possibility. But that’s the best part of it. The discovery, the scouting, the moment you go, “Oh, man. Who is this person?” That’s the juice, the big payoff.
Evan Mitchell from somewhere in NH, covered Dave Matthews and made it his own, building on the goods little by little, every song cleaner and leaner than the last. Messineo and Goodness really knocked me out as they treaded into game-changing waters, testing their skills and guts.
Another duo, “Music Therapy” caught my attention with terrific harmonies and a song selection that truly went deep. By their second song, when they covered Chris Smithers, “Killing the Blues,” I was a fan, ready to see them play again. And soon.
Then, I really tasted the leather on that boot when “Superbug” hit the stage. Blistering in a six-piece suit, (Andrew North joined them on keys) this funky band with hard rock and punk layers, crushed their three-song set, and I mean buried it! They come from the “wilderness” of New Hampshire, they say, and that’s all I know about these mad cats. What a treat.
On and on it went, seventeen acts over the course of four hours. By the tenth act, I was back on the couch, wiping scuffs of boot heel off my chin, and thankful for every mark this open mic night left.
Which were many.
Rob Azevedo can be reached at email@example.com