If you were to take Little Rock, flip it upside down and shake it around for a bit, a ton of talented people would fall out. We began looking around for artists and musicians to highlight about a year ago, and yet we’ve barely begun to chisel away at the long list of creative people who call Rock City home.
Time and time again artists and musicians tell us something along these lines – “People here can work, afford to live, and share their art.”
But what about those creative people who aren’t trying to start a business or play a tone of shows, but still want to share with others? Or, more aptly, how do you meet other creatives? What if you want to practice your piece in front of audience?
For that there’s always Open Mic Night at the Afterthought Bistro and Bar.
The show, which started sometime in the mid-2000s, has survived owner changes at the eatery, and continues to be a staple for creatives. I’ve been numerous times and seen everything from shared poetry, hula hoop stunts, and acoustic songs, to full on folk scores – fiddle included.
The program has been through a number of hosts, but is currently lead by local music enthusiast and actor, Michael Henderson. During down time between sets, you’re likely to hear Henderson sing, perhaps “Walking in Memphis” or some other ballad.
He’s not bad, and he’s guaranteed to get the crowd fired up. He says, “I love hosting Open Mic, hearing the pros and the people who come in for the first time!”
Martha Gilbert, Henderson’s close friend and long-time supporter of local music and art, says, “We have all kinds of solo and group acts who come … performers from all over the country find The Afterthought Open Mic and play here.”
The best thing about Open Mic Night? The crowd. Musicians stay and listen to other acts, and a few times I’ve even seen people introduce themselves to each other. This is what we need in Rock City. We need places for creatives to meet, and that means more business involvement in the arts – i.e. hosting an Open Mic Night. Sure, the Afterthought doesn’t have the only Open Mic in town, but it’s a solid program, one other businesses might want to check into.
I’d love to see more local established artists using Mic Night as a way to release or try out new material. Or even as a way to meet other aspiring musicians. Henderson says, “The most important people in the room is the audience. It’s not as much fun playing with yourself.”
Gilbert and Henderson agree Rock City has a sort of ‘untapped’ scene. Gilbert says, “We both believe that Little Rock has a really vibrant music scene with lots of venues and many talented musicians. We have heard from folks, either moving here or visiting our Open Mic, that Little Rock has abundance of talented performers.”
Shows take place on Wednesdays starting at 8 p.m., and interested artists can contact Henderson starting at noon on the day of to ensure a slot. Most musicians are allowed a two-song performance space. The program may also include a featured artist that performs up to seven songs throughout the night. Sometimes performers have even gotten a gig at the venue, simply playing the Open Mic.
Henderson says it best – “Support live music.”
What are you waiting for? See you next Wednesday.