Visit any open mic, and you’ll likely see anybody from newbies to people who do it as a hobby to established musicians trying out new material
By Tim Nekritz
Andy Warhol famously predicted that everybody would have 15 minutes of fame. And while that feels far-fetched, people with any level of performance skill can attain around that amount of fame almost any day of the week in Central New York through an open mic session – or for a few hours as part of an open jam.
Visit any open mic, and you’ll likely see anybody from newbies to people who do it as a hobby to established musicians trying out new material.
Paying attention – perhaps more than anybody else – is local multi-instrumentalist Julie Clement. Julie meticulously assembled a spreadsheet that shows you can find an open mic or open jam nearly any day of the week in CNY. This document was extremely helpful for writing this story, although the ever-changing nature of live scenes means you’ll want to check in advance before making definite plans.
If Northern Cayuga County open mics and jams are your thing, follow Larry Kyle for long enough and you’ll make it to one. The longtime frontman for Dam Dog is a walking community landmark and session leader, hosting an open mic at Fair Haven’s Turtle Cove Marina and Restaurant every Wednesday night during the summer, and on Thursdays the rest of the year; and Mondays at the IOOB Club in Martville during the fall and spring months.
Every third Sunday, Larry hosts a welcoming acoustic open jam (the Cider Jam) at Sterling Cidery in Fair Haven, and on fourth Sundays leads the Sterling Uke Group there for any ukulele player from novice to seasoned.
A pause for terminology: An open mic involves a performer getting up to perform a few songs (in a few cases, backing musicians will be available). An open jam involves a group of folks with varied instruments getting together; often participants trade turns suggesting and leading particular songs.
In Oswego, the longest-running open mic takes place via the Oswego Music Hall (in the Roy C. McCrobie Building) on Friday nights, but only in fall and spring. If you’re a songwriter, this is especially good.
The Port City also boasts an open mic the first and third Thursdays at Curtis Manor, hosted by the genial John McConnell. Over on the river in Bridie Manor, Steven Watson has held court on Wednesdays.
Travel a bit east, and Dominick’s Sports Tavern in Scriba offers weekly Sunday Funday open mics, with a full band setup.
You can find open mics in Southern Oswego County as well – Lock 1 Distilling in Phoenix on Wednesdays, and Two Guys from Italy Pizzeria and Sports Bar on Saturdays.
Shifty’s in Syracuse has one of the longest-running open mics in Central New York, every Wednesday. Every second Wednesday, you also can find additional open mics around the Salt City at TGIF Destiny Mall, while Buried Acorn does a Hump Day one about once per quarter.
On Sundays, Funk ‘n Waffles turns its Syracuse establishment over to guest musicians, with an afternoon jazz jam and an open mic into the evening.
A new Syracuse contender is The Night Drop, with acoustic open mics on Mondays, and open blues jams on Sundays.
Tuesdays offer a variety across the map: the Christ Community United Methodist Church in Syracuse, the Center for the Arts in Homer, TK Tavern in Camillus and Liverpool’s Limp Lizard. You also can find open mics on third Thursdays at The Fitz in Syracuse.
I should add that open mics are almost universally amazing in their acceptance and support, and well worth checking out as an audience member or performer.