Every musical style and mode of expression gets eight minutes in the spotlight on Tuesday open mic nights at Alta Coffee Warehouse and Restaurant in Newport Beach. Musical acts of all ilk and age are each allotted time for two tunes.
According to John Carrillo, organizer and emcee for the shows, a third to half of the performers are regulars. Carrillo says he gets satisfaction from inspiring people to get out there and show off their talent.
‘People sometimes just want to see if they can do it,’ said Carrillo, adding, ‘ If they’re just starting out and they only know two songs, where are they gonna go?’ The opportunity can also be a stepping stone to a solo engagement at Alta. Carrillo said he feels a sense of pride when the open mic performers go on to perform in other venues, with CDs to sell and building a fan base.
A recent Tuesday night showcase proved the mixed bag formula. Veteran blues guitarist, John Joseph opened the show. He introduced his second tune. ‘I’d like to think this is a true story.’ The story left him feeling knocked-around, as often do the blues. A first-timer named Art said of his sing-song rap tune, ‘I’m gonna try singing it as best I can.’ Unfettered by accompaniment from the cappuccino machine, his maiden flight was a big success.
Max Newsom and his duet partner Liatris Hethcoat performed a lazy, dreamy original song featuring clever harmonies, all the while reading their lyrics from a cell phone. Hunter, a tall, energetic young man with an infectious smile, chased his first tune with a Justin Bieber encore for female fans who were listening outside the open windows. A rap duo calling itself ‘Curbside’ tried to look serious under their hoodies, though smiles broke through. Another group transgressed open mic rules with a poetry recitation.
Sign-ups for open mic take place 30 minutes before the show starts. The line is long and there are usually too many acts for the two-hour show. Oden, a show regular with solid guitar chops, said he often gives up his spot to give others a chance to perform. As the show continued, a teen named Matt who was one of the early arrivals saw his moment to shine with his rendition of Bruno Mars’, ‘Just the Way You Are.’ And that’s the way it played Tuesday night at Alta.