In the past, when friends and aspiring musicians have asked me about the local open-mike scene, I’ve referred them to some online listings (example here) and recommendations to check out McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica (on the last Sunday of each month), Molly Malones in L.A. (on Mondays), and Highland Grounds in Hollywood (on Thursdays).
So it was nice to see that last Thursday’s edition of The LA Times had major coverage of the local scene, citing the aforementioned McCabes and Highland Grounds as well as the Gypsy Den in Santa Ana, Suzy’s in Hermosa Beach, and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Encino:
To the non-musician, the idea of an open-mike night is freakishly masochistic: It’s a veritable free-for-all, where anyone can sign up for five minutes (or so) of stage time and perform to a sometimes indifferent crowd, most of whose members are waiting for their own brief moment in the spotlight. There are open-mike nights of all stripes: poetry, hip-hop, comedy. But songwriter-heavy showcases are by far the most common, playing to the time-honored notion that any artist with the right combination of notes and words can change your world, or at least your mood.
On any given night in the Southland, hundreds participate in the open-mike ritual, going to their venue of choice and signing up to bare their souls onstage for an audience of their peers. …
As uneven an experience as those dichotomies might make open-mike nights for the casual patron, they are the ties that bind the participants.
In addition, the article links to OpenMikes.org and includes a list of about 50 venues around Southern California.