Open mics offer space to try something new

Weekly opportunities to test the mics in Winnipeg

Tune your guitar and polish up your magic tricks – there’s a new open mic coming to Winnipeg.

Glenn Radley is a Winnipeg drummer, songwriter and newly minted host of the Times Change(d) open mic. The first event is set for Feb. 5 at the Times Change(d)High and Lonesome Club, featuring guest co-hosts Ben de la Cour and Talie Polischuk.

Radley says the open mic welcomes all levels and varieties of performers, something that will be new to the venue.

Times Change(d) has “a blues jam every Sunday that’s kind of an institution, I would argue even nationally, but that’s more specific to blues and roots music, and it’s more specific to jamming,” he says.

“The difference between a jam and an open mic is an open mic could be literally anything – spoken word, music, so many different things – but a jam is more like getting groups of people to play songs and covers together ... I want to have a huge range of kinds of people to come down ...  So if you’re a songwriter, if you’re a spoken word artist, if you just want to tell stories, if you’re a comedian, it’s going to be a really open mic.”

Paul Little is the artistic director of the co-ordinators of CaRaVaN Open Mic and Open Stage, a much-beloved Winnipeg open mic. Currently based out of X-Cues’ and Forth Cafe in the winter and the Cube Stage in Old Market Square during the summer, CaRaVaN has been running for seven-and-a-half years.

Little says that open mics like CaRaVaN are a great space to form community and hone your skills.

“I think of people that have come through and used it as a bit of a jumping point to get more involved in the music scene,” he says.

“Marisolle Negash is someone who’s a phenomenal local performer ... She came to CaRaVaN about three or four years ago, didn’t really introduce herself, signed up, went up on stage and blew us all away. Then, in talking to her, (I) found out that she hadn’t really been playing much lately, and a place like CaRaVaN gave her a space where she felt like she could work on her stuff and get to the point where she’s playing multiple shows at (the Winnipeg Jazz Festival).

“She still comes by CaRaVaN every so often to work on something new or just to watch and hang out, because she feels like she’s part of that community.”

Radley says that open mics offer performers a unique environment to work on their material in front of other performers.

“Honestly, I find open mics a little bit more nerve-wracking than normal gigs in that you’re performing for a bunch of other performers who are also waiting to play. But I think that is kind of a nice ... testing ground for what you’re trying to do,” he says.

“It makes you a little stronger to be in that environment.”

Little says the beauty of an open mic is right in its name – it’s an amplified openness, a welcoming space for audiences and artists to discover each other and themselves.

“Every week, we’ve got a space for you,” he says.

“Come, enjoy the company, go on stage if you feel like, do whatever you want. We’ll support it no matter what.”

For an extensive list of Winnipeg open mics, visit the Winnipeg Open Mic Calendar Facebook group.

Published in Volume 73, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 31, 2019)

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