"Calling ALL local musicians, artist and hacks," reads the event listing for Bend's newest open mic night, an free-for-all gathering on Wednesday nights at The Lot. "Sing a tune, read a poem, do a dance, tell a story, present your art...be creative. Here is an opportunity to share your soul."
Soul sharing is the M.O. for local poet, musician, painter and generally ubiquitous artist MOsley WOtta, a.k.a. Jason Graham, the host of the weekly event. Open mics have the stigma of a musician's domain, but Graham emphasized the "openness" of this particular event, encouraging all types of creativity, not just the singer/songwriter.
"As much as I love the musical open mics and the poetry slams, I'm trying to see what all we can get," explained Graham. "It's sort of like a workout. We already have the massive pectoral muscles that are the singer/songwriters. We want to keep that part strong, but work the other parts of it, too."
This Wednesday, March 19, will mark the third week of the open mic and already Graham said the event is attracting the diverse talents of Bend. Silly and serious, the event is a platform for the community to test its collective material.
"It's cheesy to say it this way, but everybody gets to be that rock star for as long as they're up there," said Graham. "There seems to be an influx of storytelling in this community. We had a magician, a few comedians. One young girl sang the national anthem in the most honest to goodness American way possible. There are so many people who treat art at a hobby, but are really exceptional even if it's the magic thumb separating hand trick you show your friends."
In the past, Bend has had a thriving slam poetry scene that included weekly slams at The Grove (now Seven Nightclub) at which MoWo was a frequent performer. As recently as 2011, Townehend's Teahouse and Silver Moon hosted their own slams even combining their powers for a super all-ages slam taking place at the Poethouse. But Bend is now severely lacking in that style of literary outlet. While poetry, comedy and other spoken word crafts are certainly welcome at any open mic, it takes a lot of courage to perform escape the norm at the traditionally musical events.
Graham and The Lot hope to fill that void while adding to the bustling cultural calendar of the food cart hub, which includes events almost every night of the week, including live music on Thursdays and a full and overflowing trivia night on Tuesdays.
"It's funny to see who's showing up," said David Staley, owner of The Lot. "We've had acoustic guitar, steal drum, a cappella, poetry, comedy, storytelling. That's the idea that Jason is excited about. It's all over the place, any kind of art or poetry or music. It's open to the whole artistic community."
And with an all-inclusive policy and heated seating, no artists will be left out in the cold.
"There are no requirements," said Graham. "Everyone has something to say, some song to sing some dance move or a story to tell. The domino effect will be important. As folks start to see and inspire each other, they'll come back. I'm interested to see Bend step up in this way. A lot of times people say, 'I don't do that, I just watch.' That's total bullshit. Everybody's got something to say."
Open Mic at The Lot
The Lot, 745 NW Columbia St.
Wednesdays, 6 pm.
Other open mics in Bend
Monday, 8 pm.
Astro Lounge, 939 NW Bond St.
Wednesday, 6:30 pm.
M & J Tavern, 102 NW Greenwood Ave.
Wednesday, 6:30 pm.
River Rim Coffeehouse, 19570 Amber Meadow Dr. #190
Thursday, 6 pm.
Strictly Organic, 6 SW Bond St.
Thursday, 8 pm.
Northisde Bar and Grill, 62860 Boyd Acres Rd.