Castlegar’s Open Mic has grown enormously since its conception in February, from a handful of performers in a living room to nearly 15 performers and a large audience at the present venue in the library basement.
Events take place once a month under the direction and enthusiasm of Jamie Kallin and several others who lend their passion and expertise. Microphones, guitar jacks, and a drum set are available for use, kept in balance by a sound board monitored by Jamie and friends. Generally, musicians and writers are allotted 15 to 20 minutes, but this is a guideline rather than a strict rule and is partially determined by the number of performers who have signed up.
The event is family-oriented and welcomes musicians and writers of all skill levels. The Open Mic has been hosted by Blackout Summer, a dynamite young trio from Stanley Humphries, who perform regularly throughout the area. During December, Sometimes Seven headline the show. Some musicians have discovered like-minded people to create their own band, and subsequently perform at the Open Mic. Local writers have the opportunity to share their work in a venue that has been seriously lacking in the Castlegar region.
The Open Mic concept is not new to the area. In 1998 a group of us formed an Open Stage event primarily to give teenagers a place to perform and hang out on Friday evenings. One of the people who benefited from those sessions was Jessie Lee, a working musician popular in the Nelson musical scene.
A few years ago, the United Church hosted a series of events at the Castle Theatre, reminiscent to the Open Stage events organized by that same church back in the ‘60s. Some younger people are surprised to learn that it was Castlegar, not Nelson, that enjoyed being the cultural centre of the Kootenays in the late ‘60s through the mid-‘70s.
Perhaps the Open Mic sessions will again put Castlegar on the cultural map.
The next Open Mic is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14, beginning at 7 p.m. Entrance is through the side door of the library, where signs will be placed to help find your way. Due to the popularity of the event, it is wise for performers to come early to sign up. For those interested in discovering the multitude of talent Castlegar has to offer, it is an inexpensive and enjoyable way to spend a Saturday night.
Admission is by donation. Coffee and hot chocolate are provided by Humble Café and you will find as are cookies, snacks and other refreshments to go along with your listening pleasure. Castlegar Open Mic donates all of December donations to the Castlegar Food bank.
Judy Smith is the author of Native Blood: Nursing on the Reservation, Out of Poverty: Living and Teaching in Asia, Death is Easy; Dying is Hard, and numerous pieces in Canadian literary journals. She is the former arts columnist for the Castlegar News.