Looking for a jam or an open mic? Opportunities for musicians, spoken-word artists and stand-up comics abound in Kalamazoo, with an emphasis on community, collaboration and cross-promotion.
Whether a stand-up comic, spoken word artist, budding musician or accomplished player looking for a jam, Kalamazoo has plenty of options when it comes to trying one’s talents on the open stage.
With a half-dozen weekly opportunities for musicians and a handful for comics, the common denominator in K-zoo is “community.”
FOR THE MUSICIAN
Musicians looking for a jam can check out Shakespeare’s Pub on Mondays or Papa Pete’s on Tuesdays. Those who want to put their DJ skills on display can head to Papa Pete’s for Open Decks on Monday nights.
The common denominator is community.
“In a small local scene, there is always this weird competition aspect, and in my opinion it goes against everything art should stand for,” said Evan Wouters, who initiated Open Arts Kalamazoo last fall, providing a place for those looking to play music and sell their artwork commission-free. “We should all be working and supporting each other.”
Papa Pete’s has been the site of open mics for years — and even provided the setting where Dave Bruzza and Michael Bont of Greensky Bluegrass were first approached by fellow member Paul Hoffman weeks after buying his first mandolin back in 2000 —Open Arts is a newer concept.
“I wanted to use the concept that they use with the intramural jam Mondays at Shakespeare’s, getting people to collaborate that normally wouldn’t collaborate,” Wouters said.
“There has really been a solid jam scene coming through here, but there wasn’t really a community to expand on that and I wanted to create an atmosphere, judgment-free, where artists just starting out could get the full-gig experience. I want to make it as professional as I can for them.”
With a house kit on site, and an open jam session closing down each night, Open Arts also features a featured artist to kick off the night, helping to get people in the door that may not otherwise come to a more traditional open mic.
Wouters echoed that it’s all about cross-promotion, checking out multiple nights and venues to get one’s footing on the stage.
Boatyard Brewing Co. at 432 E. Paterson St. hosts a “GLAMA Jam” (Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association) at 7 p.m. the last Tuesday of every month — an open acoustic jam that encourages musicians to bring their instruments. Boatyard Brewing also has an Irish Music Jam at 4 p.m. Sundays — not necessarily an open jam but open to new musicians sitting in. (Get more information about other GLAMA jams online here.)
Open-mic nights, of course, also offer patrons a chance to hear some talented, emerging performers for the first time.
“We try to be as close-knit as possible and help each other out and cross-promote,” said Bob Fredericks, who runs the open-mic comedy night at Shakespeare’s on the first and third Thursday of each month.
“At the very least you get a chance to try material multiple times a week. For me, it has really helped me when I go other places, because I already have material that I’ve tested. Getting to work through it multiple times a week as opposed to waiting every couple weeks is huge.”
While open-mic nights are popular places in college towns and cities alike for artists to make their starts, it’s not often comics have just as much opportunity as those who play the six-string or pen their own lyrics.
That’s one thing that sets the scene in Kalamazoo apart. And, for those interested, the Kalamazoo Comedy Facebook page provides a one-stop shop for comics and folks who enjoy a good laugh to see what is happening around town, sign up for stage time and learn about the individual nights the Kalamazoo scene has to offer.
In addition to Shakespeare’s, comedians can try out their material Sundays at Rupert’s, Tuesdays at Louie’s, Wednesdays at Harvey’s, and on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at Papa Pete’s.
“It’s definitely really important for building up your own act and trying it out in front of other crowds,” Fredericks said, adding that when trying out new material or getting up on the stage for the first time, pretty much anything goes within reason.
“Most of the venues are really cool, because you are already in a bar, so it’s not like there are children around, but more or less I just tell people at my venue, make sure you can sleep at night with whatever you have to say,” he said.
“I try to not be too censoring, but if it’s too offensive maybe you might not want to say it. If the crowd starts to boo you off stage, I’m probably going to take you off stage. At that point, make sure you are funnier than you are offensive.”
In other words don’t be a racist or tell too many stories on your ex if his or her friends are in the audience.
For those just starting out, whether a college student or a senior, Fredericks said they can expect a three- to five-minute set to try out their goods. He recommends checking out a few of the open mics before getting up on stage, but says anyone who wants to try it can probably get up on stage within a week or two.
For early sign-up at most locations, check out the links below.
MUSIC OPEN-MIC NIGHTS
Monday: Shakespeare’s Intramural jam and open mic
Monday: Open Decks at Papa Pete’s (For DJs)
Tuesday: The Old Dog Tavern (sign up at 6 p.m.) starts at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays
Tuesday: Open Arts Kalamazoo, 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. at Papa Pete’s
Tuesday: Boatyard Brewing/GLAMA Jam, 7 p.m. last Tuesday of the month
Wednesday: Louie’s, 8 p.m.
Wednesday: Rupert’s Brew House, 9 p.m.–1 a.m.
Wednesday: Blues Jam hosted by Blue Veins, Shakespeare’s Lower Level, 8 p.m.-midnight
Thursday: Kaitlin Rose hosts ‘Homegrown in Kalamazoo’ performers workshop, Old Dog Tavern, 8-11 p.m.
Sunday: Blues Jam hosted by rotating bands, Old Dog Tavern, 6-9 p.m.
COMEDY OPEN-MIC NIGHTS
Tuesday: Louie’s, 9 p.m.
Wednesday: Harvey’s, 9 p.m.
Thursday: Shakespeare’s (9:30 p.m., first and third Thursday of the month)
Thursday: Papa Pete’s (9:30 p.m., second and fourth of the month)
Editor’s Note: If your establishment hosts an open-mic in Kalamazoo, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add it to the list.
Check out open-mic nights in the Grand Rapids area in this Local Spins listing.
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC