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Scene+Heard: Taking that first step
BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser
I am writing this post just hours after seeing Fiona Apple perform live and am completely riding the wave of her flawless performance. Someone once told me if you feel like giving up after seeing a master at his or her craft, then it isn’t the right path for you. If you feel like going home and working even harder to achieve your goals then you are right where you should be.
I’ll take the fact that I wanted to go home and lay out my keyboard on the floor, channel my past heartbreaks, and write in poetic form, as a sign that maybe that is a good thing.
Lately, I have been so busy preparing an album release that seeing a no-frills performance — where all that stood out were honesty, melody and lyrics — reminded me of why I started music in the first place and what I love about it. The process of songwriting, the rawness of performing and the passion for music.
So where am I going with this? Well, everyone has different levels of where he or she wants to be and what success means to him or her. Not just in music, but basically in most every aspect of life. And though inspirations and destinations may vary, everyone always starts at the same place. The beginning.
I get a number of emails from friends, friends of friends, and new musicians who ask me how to get started in the local music scene. I am not an expert by any means. However, if an artist already has songs prepared, most often I tell them to try an open mic. In my opinion, it is a true test of whether you are cut out for performing or not and also a great place to express your musical passion. It can be scary. It can be challenging. Yet, it can also be a great experience. It all depends on the night, the crowd, the song, and the vibe. All bring different outcomes, but all are a part of learning to be a better performer.
There weren’t as many contemporary music venues that provided an open-mic night when I started out all those years ago as there are now. Okay, so that was only six years ago, but it really was a completely different scene then. These days, a number of local venues, cafes and bars offer an evening for fresh talent to be seen and heard (pun intended).
If you are a little hesitant to dive right in and start pouring your heart out on stage, I recommend attending an open mic as an audience member first. Watch and see what the experience is like so you have an idea of what you are getting yourself into. My stage fright when I first began to perform was so bad I had to sit down while playing because I thought I was going to pass out if I stood-up. No kidding.
For me, being a spectator first was the route to go. I became comfortable with the other musicians, some of which are regulars who use the evening as a chance to play and slowly weened myself from spectator to participant.
If you can’t wait and want to be on that stage as soon as possible, then go for it. Have at least three songs prepared because you never know how long you may have to play. You could get an encore!
I can’t support open mic events enough. It’s a great way to have a built-in audience and to meet other musicians in the same boat as you. Who knows, you may meet a fellow bandmate, songwriting partner, future manager, or lifelong friend out of it. Hawaii has one of the best audiences I have ever encountered so you’ll be in a great environment. The support you get from an open mic audience is always wonderful, so get out there and start paving your path.
If you aren’t a musician and reading this, I urge you to check out an open mic and show some love for local music. You never know what you will hear. I’ve been to a number of open mic events where even music pros showed-up to play a song or two … and it’s FREE.
These are just a few of some of my favorite open mic spots in Honolulu. There are a ton more. If you have a favorite that I am not listing feel free to add in the comments.
2440 South Beretania Street
9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays; 21+
Arrive early and sign-up for a time slot.
Station Bar & Lounge
1726 Kapiolani Boulevard
8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays; 21+
Arrive early and sign-up for a time slot.
Diamond Head Cove Health Bar
3045 Monsarrat Avenue
8 to 11 p.m. every second Thursday of the month
Email Brandon Apeles a week in advance at email@example.com to set-up a time to play.
Tiki’s Bar & Grill
2570 Kalakaua Avenue
6 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays
Local singer/songwriter Johnny Helm hosts this event. Arrive early and sign-up for a time slot.
184 North King Street
9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays
$1 ($5 BYOB corkage fee)
Ong King’s open stage night is for every style of performance — from music to dance to poetry. All night kava bar and non-alcoholic beverages also available. Arrive early and sign-up for a time slot.
Sabrina Velazquez is a 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed “music nerd” who was born and raised in Honolulu. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Velazquez posts every Monday on The Pulse.