FACES AND PLACES - Downtown venues open mics

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Amateur musicians have got it good in downtown Walla Walla these days. Opportunities abound for a 20-minute shot at small-town fame through a handful of Open Mic Nights.

Open Mic is a live show where audience members may perform at the microphone. The performers typically sign up in advance for a time slot with the host.

These shows provide an opportunity for people to gain experience performing to a live audience without having to go through the process of getting paid to perform at a show, which is nearly impossible to do ... without experience.

Right now, there are quite a few Open Mic options: Monday nights at Vintage Cellars; Wednesday nights at Red Monkey Downtown Lounge and; Thursday nights at Walla Walla Village Winery and Walla Faces Tasting Salon. Musicians can call ahead for a time slot, or walk in and try to squeeze in between scheduled performers.

There is a sound system in place, an amp for plugging in a guitar and/or bass, a keyboard, even a drum set. And of course, a microphone.

Feel like trying out a newly composed love song? Go for it. A personal interpretation of a favorite song? Here's your chance. From solo country ballads on guitar to screaming rock n' roll with a 4-piece band, the audience can hear anything and everything.

A recent night at Walla Faces featured two guitars and two-part harmony on a Johnny Cash tune (performed by Jeff and James), followed by a cover of Adele covering The Cure (performed by Bizarre Love Triangle), followed by an original love song accompanied by ukulele (performed by Kit Crawford).

The feeling of camaraderie and collaboration at Walla Walla's Open Mic Nights is tangible.

The acts waiting for their time slot cheer loudest for the musicians on the stage. Whispered conversations in the back become impromptu duets or trios in the next set. It seems likely that today's back-to-back performers could become tomorrow's great local band.

Sapolil Cellars has taken the open mic concept and turned it into a contest with The Cut. Individuals or group performers, both those just starting out and established bands, compete for a cash prize and a chance to advance to the final showdown. Votes are cast by the audience with each beverage purchase. The winner(s) receive a grand prize of $500 - plus bragging rights. A new edition of The Cut starts on March 26th.

Open Mic Nights have been a winning situation for all involved parties. The hosting locations generate a little more traffic on a usually quiet week night, and sell a little more product. Local musicians get a chance to try out new material or get a little more performing experience under their belts, and possibly even meet up with a future musical partner. And local music lovers have their choice of settings to hear familiar favorites and new voices.

Open Mic Nights

  • Vintage Cellars, 10 N 2nd, Mondays 7-11pm
  • Red Monkey Downtown Lounge, 25 W Alder, Wednesdays 7-11 pm
  • Walla Faces Tasting Salon, 216 E Main, Thursdays 7-10 pm
  • Walla Walla Village Winery, 107 S 3rd, Thursdays 7-10 pm
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