I have a love/hate relationship with open mics. I love them for the same reasons that I hate them. I continue to go to them even though I find myself sometimes bored, annoyed or infuriated. I always seem to end the night inspired, alive and intrigued though. My complicated relationship with open mics continues to evolve and change, but never really resolve itself.
One of the problems with open mics is that it’s open to anyone. When you come to an open mic, you’ll find people who are so good that they could be professionals. Then there are people who have no idea what they’re doing. Maybe they’re young. Maybe they’re new to their craft. Maybe they’re just not that talented.
An open mic can go from amazing to mind-numbingly tedious in a matter of seconds. With a captive audience, those that shouldn’t be sharing their work with anyone other than their dog, have a chance to inflict their lack of ability on everyone else. It’s hard not to be judgmental or short tempered when someone takes up your time, reading a poem they wrote about how alone they are or singing a song they wrote about their unappreciated genius.
Another problem can be the length. Without a set number of performers or a schedule, open mics can last longer than 3 hours. When everyone gets a turn and there is a huge amount of people signed up, open mics can drag on for entirely longer than tolerable. It’s nice that everyone gets a chance, but there’s only so much time a human being can stand listening to people perform music.
But on the other hand, open mics are great because it’s a chance for you to hear a variety of work, from all skill levels. Open mics attract everyone who has an interest in the topic and can leave you feeling moved or inspired or both. I usually walk away from open mics thinking about all of the things I want to write and do.
You can also connect with talented people. Musicians, poets, singers and the like all go to open mics for a chance to have their work heard. Sometimes you can make a friend based on your mutual respect for each other’s creativity. It’s also exciting because you never know what you’re going to hear. It could be anything!
You have to take the good with the bad when it comes to open mics. Going to a night like this can result in a grab bag of awesome performances, painfully bad ones and everything in between. While I will continue to go to open mics, I don’t think that I’ll ever quite shake the fear that I will be subjected to hours of amateurs performing so ineptly that your brain wants to bleed just to stop you from hearing what’s happening around you.