South Park Tavern Open Mic stage welcomes all musicians
By Kyle Melton
On any given night in towns across the country, musicians of all walks can be found gathering at local watering holes to participate in some variety of the classic open mic format.
While there are numerous such events throughout the Miami Valley, the Open Mic held every Wednesday night at South Park Tavern presents an interesting twist: rather than cater strictly to solo performers, the SPT Open Mic invites musicians of all persuasions to come together to create spontaneous performances and to provide common ground on which new groups may be formed.
Under the direction of SPT General Manager Shaine Sullivan, the SPT Open Mic found its origins in late 2007 while the club was still just establishing itself in the Dayton scene.
“I remember talking to Brandon Hawk about doing some loose option open mic idea,” Sullivan recalled. “We decided Wednesday would be best not to compete with other venues. All we had was an amp that ran the house Muzak system and a mic and that was it. No stage. We actually performed in the way of the front door.”
From these humble beginnings, the SPT Open Mic blossomed under various hosts over the past several years. The one constant, however, has been Sullivan’s belief that the event cater not only to songwriters, but to all musicians in an attempt to create a melting pot in which new ideas might converge. One of the defining features of the SPT Open Mic is that the venue provides a drum kit, amplifiers and keyboards for musicians that allow for spontaneous interactions.
“Most of us as performers play many different instruments,” explained Sullivan. “This is a perfect situation for anyone to play. Anyone can open up their talents to other musicians and experiment more and meet new musicians.”
While many open mic situations can be low-key affairs, the atmosphere at the SPT Open Mic retains a relatively raucous vibe that can be intimidating to newcomers. However, for those dedicated performers that can stand up to such an environment, it can be a rewarding experience.
“I prefer to think our open mic is to work your chops as a performer and a musician,” Sullivan admitted. “It’s more of a ‘roadhouse’ atmosphere. You can’t be scared and you have to grab the audience’s attention. That’s the only way to become a better musician.”
Over the past few years, countless aspiring hopefuls have graced the stage at various times, several of whom became weekly fixtures. A handful of acts that have gained notoriety around Dayton established themselves as regulars, most notably Paige Beller and Henrique Couto. Likewise, longtime scene players Jon Dubuc and Deni Wilson found the stage at SPT inviting and eventually returned to active duty with their new outfit, the Fair Shakes. Occasionally, touring acts will stop through and provide unsuspecting audiences with an incredible set of music. Whatever a particular evening might have in store, however, is entirely up to the musicians that sign up and the potential for new musical combinations that each week may afford.
“Most musicians are hesitant at first,” said Sullivan. “Then they realize how loose the atmosphere is. We try to let a musician play a few songs then someone might want someone with harmonica and bass to join in. Add a drummer and it’s a band playing for the first time. The crowd always thinks it was rehearsed prior to the night. They are amazed how musicians communicate without words.”
With an atmosphere that caters to musicians of all kinds and fosters impromptu collaborations, any given week at SPT Open Mic can be a unique musical experience for performers and audience alike.
“The SPT Open Mic is here for all musicians and performers, not just songwriters,” Sullivan explained. “Be ready to play and be open-minded. If you want someone to join in with you, just call out the basic song structure because someone might want to join in.”
The South Park Tavern Open Mic is held every Wednesday night at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Admission is free to all ages. Music begins at 8 p.m. To sign up in advance, email your requested stage time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden.net.