A big blow to the local music scene

“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.

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7 comments

  1. Hopefully, when the Wildflower reopens, as it is rumored to be in February, the community can continue to embrace it even if it will be a bit different. It really comes down to people wanting to share between each other. So, here’s to the new owners, do everyone proud.

  2. Here’s hoping Bill and the artists find a new home soon (even if it’s the same place under new management). Sorry to see Hard Bean give up their beautiful space too, but happy to see they’re collaborating with EuroYogurt.

  3. There are scores of Open Mics and Open Jams all over the Lehigh Valley. The Wildflower was a great, inviting venue, but if you want to get your material heard drive outside the Southside to one of many others. Check this site for a full listing: http://www.hayblue.com

    And don’t forget to keep these venues alive- buy something!

  4. Godfrey Daniels offers a well-run Open Mic on the first and third Sunday of every month. Everyone is welcome. To that point, I’d like to clarify George Wacker’s comment “You don’t play at Godfrey Daniels unless you really have your [stuff] together…” You won’t GET BOOKED at Godfrey’s unless you really have your stuff together, but anyone can play at open mic.

    As someone who has been booked at both Wildflower and Godfrey Daniels, and hosted Godfrey’s open mic many times, I would love to see more of our local artists step up their game, get their stuff together, and keep local, live music and spoken word thriving in south Bethlehem.

    One last thing, Godfrey Daniels is always in need of volunteers, especially young people. Please contact me if you’re interested.

    – Dina Hall

  5. Godfrey Daniels extends its community outreach beyond its open mike with free monthly get-togethers including: songwriter sessions, blues jam, old-time music jam, bluegrass jam, story circle, Celtic music jam. swing music jams. These are all informal and friendly group of folks who just want to play. A major part of Godfrey’s mission is to provide its space for the community’s musical growth, along with presenting the finest in national and international talent.

    • This moment could be the silver lining for Godfrey Daniels. Here’s hoping that more local musicians discover the gem on 4th street. What a great opportunity for Godrey Daniel to expand their audience to younger generations.


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