Recently, I’ve been attending open mics a local coffee house has been hosting. Just as a way to connect with crowds again and get my face and name out there. I’ve been going with a friend and we both plan to continue performing there. So far, I’ve performed both covers (mostly Phoebe Bridgers) and originals. The crowds are never large— I think the highest number of people thus far has been around 15-17— and this, counterintuitively, makes performing harder. It’s much easier to sing an original song when the faces of the people watching you aren’t ten feet in front of you. It’s a lot easier to feel the separate sets of fifteen eyes on you than one hundred. I think that performing for a small crowd is ten times harder because of the intimacy, especially when a majority of those audience members are fellow musicians and are adept enough in their craft to hear mistakes in mine. There is such a difference between playing on the Ocean City Boardwalk for hundreds of people a night versus a small coffee shop. In these small venues you become more aware of the fact that people are actively judging you. The pressure is on to play perfectly; this doesn’t occur while playing for tips in OC.
This all isn’t to say I dislike performing at open mics— I think, in some ways, I prefer. The intimacy has its pros and cons and one of the pros is that you get to show your audience more of your personality. I like to be a bit cheeky (with varying degrees of success) while performing and open mics are a more conducive environment to doing that. And another great thing about performing originals that no one’s ever heard before in front of such a small crowd is that you feel proud of yourself afterwards for being brave enough to play them while knowing that everyone is really listening. Like I said, I’ve been doing lots of Phoebe Bridgers covers, and most recently, I played “Georgia.” That song is crafted so beautifully and by sharing it with others I felt like I was doing a good deed. My favorite pro of open mics is listening to all the other musicians (sometimes you even get stand-up comedians!), who continue to inspire me to write and perform. There is a camaraderie formed for a single night with your fellow performers that says “Hey, I know this is hard, but we all can do this and we’re all going to do amazing.” The support from these people is priceless and I encourage all of you, if you are ever at an open mic, to give the performers your full attention and support; it will mean the world to them.