Open mic nights important for young local bands

February 25, 2010

Are you in a local band and trying to take your music from the basement to a venue stage?

An important step for developing young local bands is the open mic night.  Open mic nights give local bands the chance to get the experience of playing on an actual stage and to get some of their music out there to people that have never seen or heard about your band before.

When my band, Vespertine Movement, first started practicing to learn cover songs and write some original material, we were trying to get the exposure of playing on a stage but not in front of a lot of people, so we could get comfortable on stage musically.

VM played a open mic night at the 8×10, and the owner asked us to come back for a bigger show, and from there we started playing a bunch of shows in the local area building up our repertoire and fan base in the process.

Depending on the venue, open mic nights usually last about 15-20 minutes, just enough time for you to play the two or three songs that you feel the most comfortable with.  Some local venues, such as the 8×10, have open mic competitions, and if your band is the best of the night, you can advance on to the next round to possibly win some helpful prizes like recording time.

Many local bands have taken the open mic step to get some exposure.  Matt Lowe, bass player and vocalist for Towson’s The Three Tree Experience, thinks highly of open mics for bands that are just starting out.

“Open mic nights are awesome.  They’re the easiest way to get on stage and perform.  That can be pretty tough to do when you first start out.  There’s no worrying about selling enough tickets to keep the club happy, and if you don’t have a lot of material to perform it’s no big deal since the only time constraint is that you can’t play for too long,” Lowe said. “I know a bunch of successful bands that got their start playing open mic nights.  It gave them the opportunity to build their fanbase to what it is today.”

Baltimore offers a variety of venues/clubs/bars that host open mic nights every night of the week.  For bands that are just starting out, all you have to do is a little research on the different venues in the area, and head down to the place and just play your music with no worries.  There’s not as much pressure for bands on an open mic night, which can be a huge sigh of relief.

So what are you waiting for young local bands? Get out there and let your music be heard.


Baltimore Venue Highlight: The 8×10

February 25, 2010

The 8×10 has been a cornerstone for Baltimore music for over thirty years.  The venue has been through three different names and different owners, but the 8×10 is here to stay.  It needs to stay .

The 8×10, located in bustling Federal Hill, Md., hosts live music six to seven nights a week.  The 8×10 brings in an eclectic mix of national and regional acts, including Galactic, The Bridge, Tea Leaf Green and much more.

Brian Shupe and Abigail Janssens have owned the 8×10 for almost  five years.  Shupe and Janssens are able to use their knowledge of music and their experience in the music industry to keep their venue going, and to bring people into their club night after night. Shupe lives for the music and has been living the dream ever since he and his wife bought the venue.

“Owning the 8×10 is the most challenging thing I have ever done, but I enjoy it immensely and I love waking up every day to go to work and dealing with new bands,” Shupe said.  “It catches up to you after awhile, but when you come down and see the crowd pumping and the lights flashing and the music happening, it’s just a reminder of what you’re in it for.  Those are the moments that carry you through.”

The 8×10 is not the biggest club in Baltimore, but its intimacy and friendly vibes from the employees make up for it, and that shows day in and day out.  The 8×10 also has the best sounding room in Baltimore, and when people come to their club, it is for the music, and Shupe likes it that way.

“I would like to think that the 8×10 has an extremely attentive and knowledgeable audience,” Shupe said.  “When people come to the 8×10, they’re not coming here to get drunk or because it’s the close walk from their dorm room.  They’re coming here for the music.  99 percent of the people that come here aren’t talking and socializing, but they are dancing to the music.”

The 8×10 brings in many national acts, but they also play a major role in helping the local music scene.  Many local bands and musicians have gotten their start from playing at the 8×10.

The 8×10 offers open mic nights once a week and they also sponsor a unique program, “5 Bands for 5 Bucks” every Tuesday night.  Depending on how the bands do, Shupe and Janssens work to get the bands better shows on better nights, and the bands work their way up the ladder so hopefully in the future, they can be headlining their club.

The 8×10 plays an important role in Baltimore by bringing in acts that people want to see, and by developing young local bands by giving them a stage to play on.  The 8×10 is an essential part of the Baltimore music scene, and the impacts the venue has had on music are immense.