Stepping up to the mic
Vail CO Colorado
You don’t have to be a rock star to step up to the mic and jam like one.
Whether you’re looking to take the stage all by yourself or network with other likeminded musicians, Vail’s open mic scene has taken off, attracting first-time performers and seasoned entertainers alike. The Sandbar, Loaded Joe’s, Paddy’s and Main St. Grill all have opportunities for musicians to congregate and play in a live setting.
Sunday night at Loaded Joe’s in Avon is perhaps the most organized (not to say the others are disorganized; they’re just more casual).
“The turnout is excellent at Loaded Joe’s, I mean, phenomenal,” said open mic regular Dave Kraft. “In fact, the last time I was there they must have had 17 shows lined up back-to-back. I think it’s a lot more fun doing that than hearing a house musician. The first time I went, I really didn’t expect it to be that good.”
At Joe’s, everybody who performs gets a chance to play three songs, but if you arrive late, you might not make it on the list. On the other hand, Paddy’s, Sandbar and Main St. Grill are a little more laid back and perhaps less intimidating in terms of inviting people to jam as a group.
Paddy’s on Tuesday
Tommy Anderson has been running Paddy’s Tuesday night open since early winter.
“We wanted have an open jam to create a community music incubator and to have music in there all the time – no pressure, not a formal situation, but to draw out some of the good players from around town,” Anderson said.
Anderson brings a few extra instruments – maybe a guitar, bass and mandolin – but primarily people bring their own gear. He said it’s always a surprise who and what shows up. Paddy’s has hosted musicians playing everything from guitars and drums to ukuleles and accordions – both acoustic and electronic, as well as individuals and complete bands.
“There’s a whole lot of talent that’s kind of undiscovered around here,” Anderson said. “Throughout the process of getting this open jam going, I’ve noticed there are a lot of people up in these hills that are good players. Some have even been professionals or have that kind of talent, but haven’t had the opportunity to show it off in front of anyone.
Main St. (open jam) Monday
Not technically an open mic (primarily because there are no mics), the Main St. Grill open jam is led by Patrick Padgett of the local bluegrass band The Laughing Bones. The jam is definitely acoustic folk-oriented, but anyone can come play.
“You just come in, bust out an instrument and play,” Padgett said. “Open mics are cool, very cool, but that’s more of a showcase. What I always liked about the bluegrass jams is everyone plays together.”
When Padgett first moved out to the valley eight years ago, he was a regular at the Main St. open mic, which is where he met many of the other musicians he now performs with.
Regulars from Vail to Gypsum come every week to play in the weekly jam, but they also have participants from places as far as New York City who make a point to stop in whenever they’re in town.
Padgett said it is not a super high level of play, and anyone who likes acoustic music is welcome, whether they know the songs or not.
Dave Kraft was on his way to one of his regular appearances at the Sandbar open mic, when a car veered off the road and the window rolled down.
“This Robert Plant-looking guy, but with red hair, saw my girlfriend carrying my guitar case in a blizzard and knew that meant open mic night somewhere,” Kraft said. “She could have been carrying a guitar for 20 other reasons, but somehow he knew we were heading to an open mic.”
The dude, who was on a cross-country relocation convoy, busted out a mandolin from 1908 and was an amazing player.
But you don’t have to be redheaded, mandolin-playing Robert Plant to participate at the Sandbar. Led by local Steve Corr, it’s a very welcoming environment.
“I love the chance to hear other musicians living around town or might be from out of town visiting,” Corr said. “But also, as a musician, I like playing with the various people that come by, which is what makes it a lot of fun, for me. It’s a great place to network with other musicians.”
For the most part the show is rock-based acoustic, although they do plug in a PA for musicians with electric instruments. Most people bring their own gear; however, there are always a couple hand drums kicking around, as well as a guitar and maybe a bass for folks from out of town. Jamming in a group is heavily promoted.
“If there isn’t a bunch of people on the list when we start, I’ll try to get everyone to come up and play with me and we’ll do a whole thing in the round. We’ll just pass it along playing one song each as the lead and everyone sort of jams along.”
Whether you’re looking to get a rush from being up on stage, learn some new songs or make some new friends, Vail’s open mic circuit has something for everyone.
“I recently started playing at all the open mic nights on my nights off. I have never enjoyed myself more at a bar,” Dave Kraft wrote in a letter to the Vail Daily. “The camaraderie among the players makes for a great atmosphere. It encourages people to take a chance and put themselves on the line. … If you play, but never thought you were good enough, let us be the judge of that. Come and play with us. Maybe you are better than you think.”