6 Ways to Piss Off an Open Mic Host

6 Ways to Piss Off an Open Mic Host

By Rachel Vogelzang

I got my start playing open mics here in Concord. If it weren't for the loving, caring, occasionally overly-friendly crowd of musicians who cheered me on, I don't know if I would be where I'm at today. Which is running between one and three open mics a week, offering new performers a chance to shine, and coming up with passive-aggressive lists about the few things I dislike about my totally kickass job.

I love my job, don't get me wrong. I get to hear new talent, hang out with old friends, and be a smartass on the microphone. I've only been doing the hosting thing for a little over a year now, so I'm no expert. However, I have pulled together a few things you can do if you really want to piss off the person who is assisting you in your 15 to 20 minutes of late night local music fame.

1. Complain about the house guitar.

Look, I know my Ibanez sucks. It was great for where I was at four years ago, but it's laminate, not solid wood; the action is a bitch; and there's blood on it. Whose blood? I don't know, it's the house guitar. Yes, it's out of tune; no, the built in tuner doesn't work, and neither does the quarter inch input. There's an app for that, and we can use XLR instead. Panties unbunched? Great. Now that we've got that settled, please don't...

2. Complain about the sound equipment / lack thereof.

Sometimes I use the house equipment. A lot of it is my personal gear I've invested in over time. I don't have two microphones. I'm sorry. Yes, I should get one; but I'm a Broke Musician, man, I have living expenses and guitar strings to buy (because no one ever gives me $5 when they break a string, even though I put it on the list) and purple highlights to put in my hair. If your guitar doesn't plug in, I can't help you. Also, it's not my fault that the house PA doesn't amplify your weakass instrument signal. No, I do not have a DI box. BROKE MUSICIAN (I'll just say BM from now on, you'll know what I mean, okay?). Remember?

3. Get too drunk before you play.

Okay. I know we're at a bar. I know you're nervous, this is your first time, or maybe your hundredth and you just really like to drink. But if you trip over the edge of the carpet and put your guitar on backwards, you probably shouldn't be behind my gear. I don't have insurance (BM!), and if you knock my mic down and break it, NOBODY gets to sing. That's why my SM-58 has those dents in it, bee-tee-dubs. Because drunk people shouldn't touch sound equipment. Heard?

4. Spend half your set tuning/setting up/talking, then not shorten your set.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but there's a lot of people who want to play. We have a list for a reason; I put the starting times next to your name as a special favor. I work my ass off to keep us on schedule so those of us who are working have time to clean up and get home, and so those of us who are waiting around to play don't feel screwed out of our time. If you don't tune beforehand or know where your chord sheets are or are only halfway done with your cigarette when it's your turn, congratulations. I am now pissed off.

5. Disrespect other musicians, the audience, or staff.

Do not talk shit about other musicians and their sets. Do not make passive-aggressive statements about how nobody appears to be listening; if they were, they will not be anymore. Say nothing but nice, kind things about the bartenders. They are working to pay their bills, dealing with rude, drunk assholes all night, and listen to the same musicians week. after. week. Just be nice on the mic. And if you're not, I will call you on that shit. You've been warned.

6. Apologize for messing up.

The ONLY way anyone ever gets better at being on stage is by practicing. This here is a place for you to practice. So practice kicking ass. If you mess up a line, or play a wrong chord, just keep going. Don't pre-apologize either; "I don't know this song very well; my voice is kinda crappy right now; I just broke my toe..." 90% of the time, if you don't tell us, we won't notice. Own the stage. Then come back again next week and do it again. And again. And again. Until you stop messing up. See? Easy.
And there you have it; six things to do if you want to piss off your open mic host. Well, six things to do to piss me off anyway. I can't speak for the others. And overall, I love the hell out of my job. There's a lot more things that make me happy (fresh meat! deceptively quiet newcomers who are amazing! visiting out-of-towners who are professional recording artists but don't tell anyone!) than there are things that piss me off. Come see me some Tuesdays at Tandy's Top Shelf, every Thursday at True Brew Barista, and once a month on Friday at The Local in Warner - check my calendar for details.

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