“Local music is what becomes big music. Every famous performing artist in the world started out as a local artist, performing in clubs and coffee houses.
1. Local performing artists become international performing artists with the help of their fans.
2. Local music can help support tourism and raise money for cities, counties, and townships.
3. Local music isn’t always amateur or less professional than larger media.
4. Local music can just be more fun!”
This is a description of a Facebook fan page created by students and alumni from University of West Virginia. It provides a perspective for the recent closing of the Wildflower Café in South Bethlehem; a blow to the local music scene and to Lehigh University students who found a community of creative people.
The WildFlower Café was the last of the open mic locations in Bethlehem, aside from the Godfrey Daniels. Joel Griffith, member of the UWV page posted this thought, “If you are having a hard time getting a gig in town, open mics are a great opportunity and often go ignored. Nearly every local band I have ever talked to started out playing a few open mic nights.” This opinion is shared by many local music supporters; even in the Lehigh Valley.
Open mics are important for any artist who is plucking up the courage to take their first steps into sharing their work publicly. According to George Wacker, a local musician (and social media personality) who has run a few open mics at the former Rockin Joe’s Café, “You don’t play at Godfrey Daniels unless you really have your [stuff] together. The Wildflower Café was a go-between not quite the real world and college experimentation. It was low stress. You would see a variety of performances there; songwriters, poets, spoken word, even performance art.”
The Wildflower Café open mics were run by a local music scene champion, Bill Medei. He kept the list, and made sure that people shared the stage fairly. Mr. Wacker said, he was “the adult in the room.” The audience was always very generous and supportive. And a few of the regulars have been expanding their network, continuing to perform new songs and grow as artists. Paul Theissen and Jonathan Fadem are just two of the musicians that come to mind. But there are many, many more.
Writer and musician Matt Hart says in his blog, “… many folks outside of the music world are unclear on what “Open Mic” means. To get everyone on the same page, Open Mics (or “Open Mic Nights”) are open performance spaces generally held at bars, cafés, and music venues during off-nights. Anyone can come, sign up, and perform original or non-original music, poetry, performance art, etc. They are a vital part of any music community, especially for songwriters and poets, as a place to come together, share art, connect with each other, and get feedback on their work.”
In his post, Mr. Hart lists key features that make an open mic great, and [not so great]. The key open mic features he discusses are purpose, host, venue and audience. It is my sincere hope that this post reinforces the purpose of open mics. Now that we’ve lost another venue, if our community is lucky enough to see an establishment present open mics in our future, we should support them and acknowledge their importance for the outlet our community’s creative voices need.