I started my Thumbnail Guides to open mic in many of the world’s major cities as an offshoot to what had become the most popular such guide for open mics in Paris, my home. Seeing how useful the Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music became, and being a regular traveller around the world to usually around 20 countries every year, I decided to start a guide for each of the cities I visited, and I updated them with each annual visit. This was all done in conjunction with my work as a journalist covering the Formula One auto racing series for the International Herald Tribune and New York Times. But as of the end of 2016, I no longer cover Formula One, no longer travel the world, and can therefore no longer update my guides annually through my own personal experience. However, I have decided that since the guides remain popular, I will updated them as often as I can by using my basic guide and doing searches on the internet to confirm that the open mics still exist in each city.
However, where the individuality, the distinctness of these Thumbnail Guides was always that I had to perform myself in the open mics – I would not just put up links to places I had heard about – I do not want to see the guides die off, and I have come up with an idea for transforming them. I would like to solicit anyone who wishes to contribute to the open mic guide to send me the kind of information that I have listed below, along with your own personal experiences and impressions of the open mic. I will then update the Thumbnail Guide and put your information, making it clear that the information comes from a contributor – and I am even open to putting your name, personalizing the entry, if that is something you want. I will also put a link to your own music web site or soundcloud or whatever – should you like this idea. In that way, maybe – and that’s a big maybe – these guides will be able to live on. – Brad
Links to useful open mic guides to Melbourne:
Melbourne Open Mic facebook page. Run by Emily Brown, who has run open mics in Melbourne, this page started off fairly humbly, and now it has one of the best lists of open mics in Melbourne – as a note, you might have to dig to find the list. But well worth it.
Heartstrings Melbourne is a great site, well laid out with a day-by-day list, and details.
Open Mic Nights in Melbourne – Skinhat. This used to be an excellent, large and detailed guide of open mics in Melbourne broken down by day of the week. Unfortunately, it was first made several years ago – I first used it in 2009 – and has not been kept up very well since – possibly not since 2011. Even so, it is still worth looking at to see which open mics may have been around the longest! But you would be wise to check each venue by another means, once you find it, to see if the open mic still exists. This is pretty out-of-date now, as I think the person who started it no longer does updates.
Brad Spurgeon’s findings on Open Mics in Melbourne:
Over the years I have performed at a lot more open mics in Melbourne than I have listed here, but most of them have either closed down or I cannot find further trace of them – such as the Softbelly, the Spleen, the Arthouse, the U-Bar, Bertha Brown, etc. -, and that’s why I have such a short list from my own personal experience below.
Monday – Cornish Arms, 163A Sydney Road, Brunswick, VIC 3056, Tel. 03 9380 8383, email@example.com is a traditional open mic, with a sign-up at 7:30PM. In the heart of the hip Brunswick area of Melbourne, this cavernous and cool pub has a nice big stage – lots of these in Melbourne bars, by the way – and a good sound system. Show up before 7:30 and be prepared for a stampede to the sign-up. The open mic goes from around 8:15 or so in 15-minute slots, or what usually means three songs. A back outdoor terrace attracts the talkers when the audience depletes in the main room.
Wednesday – Great Britain Hotel, 447 Church Street, RICHMOND, VIC 3121. This one has been going on for years, and it is a wonderful location, an old pub with a pool table, a courtyard behind, and a bar in the front. Unfortunately, the fabulous stage the bar used to have has been wiped out in favour of a kitchen. But now the small stage in the front of the pub is actually well placed to reach people at the bar and in the street, so in a way it’s a more satisfying place to play than before, when spectators would often just leave the music venue part of the pub, leaving performers alone on the big stage.. It is necessary to get there early or even call during the day in order to get your name on the list, but no later than 8:30 PM. This last time I played there, in 2015, the 15-minute slot had become a 30-minute slot, which is quite long for some people, and wonderful for others!
– Mr. Boogie Man Bar, 160 Hoddle Street, Abbotsford, +61406797644, firstname.lastname@example.org This is a fabulous, simple open mic with a great stage and sound system and a laid back MC, David, the owner/manager of the bar. It is advisable to contact him in advance via email. Each slot is 15 minutes long, and it starts at 7:30 and goes to around midnight. A classic feel to it, the night I went there was a fairly large cross-section of talent, and my only criticism of the Mr. Boogie Man open mic was the tendency for people not to stick around after they played.
Thursday – Balaclava Hotel, 123 Carlisle St, St Kilda East, VIC, 3183. A fabulous feeling to this open mic that is one of the rare open mics that I have found that takes place under bright lights in a large pub but still manages to create an intimate, warm feeling. There is also a large audience in addition to a frequently long list of musicians. Starts at 7:30 and goes to midnight. Sign up early on the day of the open mic on the Facebook page in the link above, and Erik Parker, the genial MC will get you a slot.
– Station 59, 59 Church St., Richmond. A wonderful, old fashioned bar that has not succumbed to being a sports bar – or so it says on its web site. It is a classic open mic, with a pretty large stage for the venue – which means they like music – and an enthusiastic organizer who watches over the sound. The night I went to Station 59, though, it was really quiet in terms of both the number of musicians and the number of spectators. But I was told that it could be so busy that they had to turn musicians away, and that it was unpredictable as to how busy it would or would not be. In any case, a neat neighbourhood too, with no end of Vietnamese restaurants around the corner for your meal needs, before, during or after the open mic.
Open mics I have heard of from others, but not tested myself:
Tuesday – The Snug Public House, 68 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria 3056. To sign up, call on (03) 93888756. I have heard this is a good one, but I have not played there. In any case, it is nice to have a replacement for the great Empress Hotel open mic that closed down at the end of 2013.
Thursday – Eureka, Richmond. I did manage to check into this bar in 2016, as I went to the Station 59 open mic next door. But despite a date for Thursday night on an open mic list I had found, there was no open mic that night. So best to check to see when, or if, it is happening.