If you’re a musician in Toronto, you can undoubtedly agree with the fact that there are enough open mics and open jams each week to keep you playing non-stop every night. Anywhere you turn, there is a venue that has some sort of “free showcase” event once a week.
An open mic or an open jam is a great way to showcase to other artists what you are capable of doing (and in some cases, not capable). Procedure? Walk in and write your name on the list, wait until the end of time to play two to three songs in front of a crowd of strangers all dying for the same exposure you’re receiving in front of them.
There are many factors that go into a night of entertainment and a venue, respectively, but to hold an evening of music devoted to the lesser known and keep it from wandering the audience’s eye can prove to be a rough road. And to top off the already rough road, one must keep it up once a week. It’s fine for the artist line to keep growing longer, but how do you keep an entertaining open mic accessible to the public, week after week, through good and bad artists? Through sound problems, delays, stumbling poets? Through the hecklers, the egos, and the ever-changing line up of talent?
The Venue: Open a bar on the corner of Dundas and Ossington Streets in Toronto. With an average of four walls in most structures, one must then decide what to do with them. Should they be blank so the audience is always captivated in something else or should these four walls be giving the clientele something to look at (aside from the waitress)? You guessed right; when decorating a bar on the corner of Dundas and Ossington, one must always remember the female figure and her triumph over decades, even centuries. This wonderful venue as comfortable as it is, has taken the female form and painted her in frame all across each eye-wandering crevice. Whether male or female, gay or straight, biased or unbiased, you will feel at home in the eclectic temporary drinking abode. A key characteristic of an open mic/jam setting.
The Host: When dealing with the public in a manner such as an open mic, the host is usually some one with some musical abilities (to get the ball rolling, as they say). But at this event, the Painted Lady has an actual host, an Emcee. Jef Farquharson, a man so bizarre he would have the ability to sit in a room with Adolf Hitler and Anne Frank, and be the awkward one. Political and satirical, nonsensical, a raving lover of attention and lack of order. A man who has no problem imitating, impersonating, mocking, talking, squawking, yelling, shouting every fifteen minutes and helps make everyone feel uncomfortable for the sake of humour and entertainment. A host who many can’t take their eyes off of, and not just because of his charming cartoonish looks. Another set-in-stone characteristic of a good open mic.
The Variables: When finalizing all the finishing touches on a successful evening, you must have two more variables added to the equation. Number one, you must have a sound man, one with a great rapport with the host, of course, a good ear for changes, and, obviously, a sound system capable of creating a good sound for both the audience and the performer. Next in line is, as Jef may or may not put it, “the prettiest, most sought-after female bartender this side of the West Nile.” Ah, yes, that is the waitress, bartender, drink handler, or what may have you. She is instrumental in a happy audience, and a happy host.
After all is said and done, everyone goes home with the same feeling that they woke up with. It is entirely what you put into it. But, with a venue like this, with a host like that, and with a sound man and a waitress like them, who could ask for anything more? It’s a home away from home for all you beginners and weekend warriors. It’s a haven, a venture, and a great way to spend an evening. Bring your friends, bring your friends’ friends; it is a live music venue that supports original music. And I guarantee in your beginning they will support you every Monday night after 10 p.m. at the Painted Lady.
For more information on the Painted Lady and their open mic nights, visit http://thepaintedlady.ca.