Getting bare (and unplugged)

Musician's Co-op at Canal Street Tavern. Photo courtesy of Wiondsor Knotts Musician's Co-op at Canal Street Tavern. Photo courtesy of Wiondsor Knotts
Musician's Co-op at Canal Street Tavern - photo courtesy of Wiondsor Knotts Musician's Co-op at Canal Street Tavern - photo courtesy of Wiondsor Knotts

Dayton’s acoustic music scene revealed

By Keith Bange

The acoustic music scene. In every major city, and most minor ones, watering holes, coffee shops, parks and sidewalks offer a glimpse into the most available and sincere forms of music that a city has to offer.

Musician's Co-op at Canal Street Tavern. Photo courtesy of Wiondsor Knotts

Across the country, denizens from the suburbs with acoustic guitars are fulfilling their destinies, shouting of love, loss, gain, heartbreak or unequivocal joy. In most of these American metropolises, when dealing with the acoustic, or ‘open mic’ scene, there seems to be an inflation of the same venues, and the same musicians doing the exact same dance. Good thing for us, Dayton isn’t every other city.

Thankfully, we have souls here that try to do things to better the acoustic scene, people who try to build it, revive it, give it a heart and make it pump like a train going full steam. The people who exist within the Dayton acoustic scene are of a different breed, playing from the heart, with everything they’ve got, to anyone who will listen, and if you open your ears, chances are you will hear something you like.

For over 30 years, every Tuesday night, Canal Street Tavern has hosted the Musician’s Co-op. Owner Mick Montgomery has been holding the event before Canal Street even existed, at Sam’s Cafe, which occupied the space before he acquired the bar. A mainly acoustic night, it isn’t the average ‘open mic’ scenario, as you must sign up in advance to play, unless by miracle there is an open slot to jump into.

Consisting of eight half-hour sets, musicians are encouraged to play whatever kind of music they’d like, with whatever instrument they please. At the Co-op, the music tends to lean towards the folk, rock, blues and jazz genres, chock full of one-man bands, lightning fast blues, soul shaking jazz and enough folk and old country to make your head spin. Given an atmosphere where music is the singular priority, with no televisions, jukeboxes or bar games, the Canal Street Tavern Musician’s Co-op is one of the most unique and songwriter-focused open mics that has ever existed.

One of the Musician’s Co-op’s hosts, Windsor Knotts, is also now hosting what is being called Windsor’s Midweek Hayride at J. Alans, in tribute to old country music shows.  Windsor says of the event, “It’s an acoustic show that features a variety of singers, players, songwriters playing alone or together. Trying to get the feel of a bunch of people sitting on the porch playing songs with and for each other, and the neighbors lucky enough to stop in for a drink.”

The music that this bi-weekly event has to offer, as one might imagine, is heavy into the old folk and country variety, with bits of the blues and bluegrass thrown in. Musicians are encouraged to show up with their instruments, and participate, as the environment offers. After the New Year, there is an anticipated change of dates, and the event will likely be held on the first and third Sundays of the Month, starting on the third Sunday in January.

Musician's Co-op at Canal Street Tavern. Photo courtesy of Wiondsor Knotts

Of the more conventional ‘open mic’ variety, Blind Bobs offers a weekly, traditional ‘open mic’ every Thursday with host Brandon Hawk, where musicians are encouraged to come in and fill a half hour slot with as many original or cover songs as they can fit in. At these events, you may see long-time local musicians from local bands coming in to play by themselves, as well as new musicians coming in to perform for the first time in front of an audience, providing a comfortable atmosphere for musicians new and old to play in, and a great place to hear acoustic music.

South Park Tavern also hosts an open mic night every Wednesday, offering musicians something that isn’t offered anywhere else. With sign-ups in advance on SPT’s website,, musicians can come in and play by themselves, or if they’d like accompaniment, there is a drum set and bass guitar amp set up for people to get on stage and join in. This strange, but very interesting concept lends itself to musicians playing with other musicians, either jamming, or playing practiced songs and providing a different type of ‘open mic’ scenario than is seen anywhere else in town.

With so many different options, on many different nights of the week, one can really immerse themselves in the acoustic/songwriters’ scene in Dayton, almost completely.

The many different events held at the different venues to showcase songwriters and acoustic musicians offer enough variety that going to hear acoustic acts several nights of the week does not have to get monotonous and bland. Taken from a plaque at Canal Street Tavern, “A music ‘scene’ evolves when there is enough sincere, honest and creative music being made, and, when there is enough true recognition and support from an intelligent and discerning audience.”

In a city surging with as much musical talent, sincerity and creativity as Dayton has, its acoustic and ‘open mic’ scene offers a showcase of the hardest working musicians in town, putting themselves out in the open, completely bare, for everyone to see.

Reach DCP freelance writer Keith Bange at

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