Last night I got it in my head to undertake a feat that I have only succeeding in once before – attending two open mics in one night.
This is especially tricky for me, since I turn into a very unmusical pumpkin if I stay out past midnight, but this week I had motivation – I was determined to get my new tune “Dumbest Thing I Could Do” out of my living room (where I blurrily video-demoed it earlier this week) and into the ears of as many people as possible.
Thursdays present a perfect non-pumpkin opportunity to do just that. First, hit the early open mic at Crossroads hosted by my dear friend Victoria Spaeth. Then hit a standard-timed one, playing in the first half. A popular choice is to hit nearby Buckets bar & Grill after Crossroads, but that puts me farther from home. Instead, I substituted McGillin’s, a super-popular pub in Center City.
Crossroads is an unpretentious coffee shop on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough/Manayunk. The counter at the front the shop opens up to a two-story, all-wooden room complete with a wrap-around balcony on the second level.
While I wish it had more of their comfortable armchairs and that the balcony was given more attention, I love the space for its golden natural acoustics. You barely need amplification. Also, the staff is super-friendly (shoutout to MIKE!) – full of suggestions of pescetarian food and their favorite drinks (last night: chai latte with a shot of espresso, which would have turned me into a human squirrel, so I just had tea).
The open mic was front-loaded with a lot of my favorite Philly performers. Vicky is quickly becoming one of the best singer-songwriters in the entire Philly scene, and now that she plays with a band it’s a rare treat to see her solo – especially doing newer tunes like “Electric Love.” (I’m still hunting a solo version of “Breathe & Release,” which may wind up being my song-of-the-year if she finishes recording the damn thing).
After our back-to-back sets I caught up with Joshua Popejoy (disclosure: client; awesome acoustic rocker) who is putting the finishing touches on a solo record bearing the title After the Ash. I have been dying for a studio version of at least half of the tracklist, so I encouraged him to FINISH IT ALREADY! (I can shout these things because I actually finished my own long-promised solo record.)
I also chatted up my open mic buds Bill McConney and Alec Stewart, both in fine form. Plus, Aaron Brown, who I’ve rhapsodized over previously. He’s got a songwriters-in-the-round show coming up at Tin Angel on 4/15.
Crossroads Coffee House. Thursday night open mic, signup ~6:30pm, music ~7:15pm. Usually limited to ten acts, two songs each. 6156 Ridge Ave., Philly, 19128. (Hint: Take the 9 bus from Walnut up Ridge Ave.)
After another songwriter (whose name I missed! I’m lame!) I had to excuse myself to bus down to CC, though in retrospect I could have spared another half hour. Deposited at Broad & Chestnut (by a Septa bus that did its best to run me over while I stood INSIDE THE BUS STOP), I wandered in a circle trying to remember which street leads to the special Underland occupied by McGillin’s.
McGillin’s is the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. It’s tavern in the classic sense – not dive-y in the least, a menu full of hearty, affordable food, and a lengthy beer list.
The best time you can have there is with a big crowd – either of your own making, or during one of their famously great karaoke nights. However, it’s a Philly open-secret that they also host an open mic night on Thursdays in their upper level, with its 20-foot antique oak bar.
The McGillin’s open mic is cool for a few reasons. The aforementioned food is high on the list. The setup includes a raised stage, sturdy stools, and a spiffy pair of wireless mics. The room can be still packed from happy hour, which gives you an audience happy to sing along to covers. And, host Mark is the friendliest possible dude in the world – affable, knowledgeable, and he makes me feel like I’m playing Madison Square Garden.
Last night the lineup was sparse, which meant mega sets for all. I played a monstrous five songs, including “Bad Romance” (HUT!) and a slinky, sweaty, rocking version of “Dumbest Thing I Could Do” (YES!).
While Mark played I got to know Philly bassist Mitch Beer. Mitch splits time between his supergroups BAM! and Soulfatronic while gigging with other local and national acts. He toured with Diggable Planets last fall, and might be heading out with them again soon! A very cool dude I hope to meet again.
McGillin’s Old Ale House. Thursday night open mic, signup from 9pm, start varies. 1310 Drury St., 19107. (Hint: Walk south on 13th from Chestnut; Drury is on your right.)
All in all, a great night of music. I even made it home before pumpkin time!