Open Mic nights in Vancouver are bountiful
// Liam Park

If you’ve ever entertained a rock star dream, even for a moment, there’s a place for you. Vancouver is teeming with open mic nights, where anyone can come, sign up, and perform in a casual setting. These nights are a great place for a rising musician to test their material and their legs in front of an audience, while also being introduced to a community of supportive musicians. Here are three popular open mic nights that showcase what Vancouver has to offer.

Vapour Lounge
Registration between 8-9pm

Every Tuesday night at the British Columbia Marijuana Party Vapour Lounge, there's magic in the air inspiring Jams in the Key of Green.

"There are no wrong notes in inspiration, there are no wrong notes in the key of green" says Adam Bowen, the founder of this casual open mic. Anyone and everyone is welcome to jam as long as they get their name on the sign up sheet or into Adam's head.

Adam has been organizing open mic nights at the Vapour Lounge since just before Marijuana Party leader Marc Emery was incarcerated in the States two and a half years ago. Without Adam, the annual 420 celebrations at the Art Gallery would not be what we know now, and the open mic is a valuable way for Adam to scout potential talent to perform at the event.

The music pallet is diverse, from the standard open jam blues-and-folk to some of the strangest psychedelic sound collages around. "At one point there were seven guys playing who had never met before," observed Kevin, a regular audience member.

With apparent inspiration from iconic bands like the Grateful Dead, solos are often drawn out. Other artists perform mediums such as freestyle rap, and more. The audience and community is somewhere between rapture, conversation, and uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Of the $5 per hour collected from the guests at the Vapour Lounge, half of it goes to a different charity every week; on Jan. 17 it went to the Vancouver East Side Women's Centre.

Sorry Babushka

Possibly the newest open mic in Vancouver’s scene started at Sorry Babushka, a small bar on Commercial about two and a half months ago. AJ Ottaway, founder of Sorry Babushka's Wednesday open mic has a vision of a romantic past in which the artists of Commercial Drive fostered a great supportive community. He records all the artists who perform and offers his services to edit the recordings for the artists with very reasonable rates.

AJ and the community he's fostering don't care if it's your first time playing for an audience; in fact, he would encourage you to play if this is the case. Sorry Babushka's open mic is a judgment free, welcoming, and intimate atmosphere ideal for a new solo performer looking for some stage experience and more involved musicians seeking community. There's no cover, and they make great caesars.

Café Deux Soleils

While at Sorry Babushka, an audience member mentioned: "This one's just getting started, Cafe Deux Soleils is the premier open mic on the strip."

Reviews like this are nothing new for this long-running open mic night. Sure enough, with the open mic's seven-year history, the café is swarming with people. Cafe Deux Soleils is an all-vegetarian restaurant on Commercial Drive with regular live performances including music and poetry.

Matt Bryant, who runs the open mic in its most recent form, works tirelessly over cables and plays MC, encouraging the legions of uncertain and unacquainted attendees to sit with someone new. While there are regular attendees, according to several musicians, the lottery system keeps playing opportunity fair by drawing names at random from a pitcher, and keeping remaining names in for next week's draw.

The jam is open to new players; however, the long evolution of this open mic makes the pressure for quality seem stronger. Rudy Hogg of Vancouver folk band The Lucindas says, "Got your shit together? Then test the waters live." His group, and the other artists marching the stage throughout the night definitely did.

Whether you're trying to get a following to publicize your first album, you’ve just learned your first song on guitar, or you want to sail into the sunset with someone you just met, there are communities ready to accept you and your sound in varying degrees and colours of sobriety. In the worst case scenario, you have cheap entertainment at the cost of witnessing a few unfortunate Wonderwall or Hallelujah covers; conversely, you could find yourself performing at the 420 celebrations in Vancouver this April. Whatever your experience with the local open mics, it should be a good one.

//Liam Park, writer
//Graphics by Sarah Vitet

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