Long Island is a haven for open mic nights, and the scene is actually a lot more close-knit and friendly than anything you can find in the city. If you are looking to share your three songs with the world, here are some tips for making your fifteen minutes count.
1. Find the right one for you.
No matter where on the Island you hail from, there is probably an open mic in close proximity. A great resource is openmikes.org, which lets you search by zip code and by night of the week. And it even has user reviews. Another great resource is other musicians (no surprise there) or join a Facebook group for Long Island music and ask the other members.
2. Chillax, my friend!
Remember that the operative word in open mic is “open.” That means, even if you just started playing guitar two months ago and can’t yet find the F chord, you can still play songs with other chords. No one is grading you and you can’t be fired from open mic night. The crowd may not be family, but they are not adversaries, either. Every performer makes mistakes, so be willing to laugh it off and keep playing.
3. Follow the golden rule.
You probably don’t want people talking loudly over your songs, so be respectful while others are playing. In fact, take it a step further and be interested. First of all, you know how great you’d feel if someone stopped you after your set and said, “I loved that part of the song where you’re singing about _______. Is that an original?” Secondly, it also feels great to realize that there are a lot of exciting musicians right in your neighborhood. Open mics are all about community—this is your chance to be a part of it.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That’s what Dave and Magge Drew do with their bar that is part local watering hole, part local concert venue. Flat-screen TVs show soundless sports while a corner stage features LI’s best undiscovered bands and acoustic acts. No artier-than-thou indie scene here—just regular people hanging out and playing tunes. Babylon,
Musicians who were around in the 70s speak of a magical, mystical time when bars had live music seven nights a week, and people went out to dance and drink rather than ignore a DJ playing Clear Channel hits. It may sound idealistic and unlikely, but KJ Farrell’s does lend credence to the legend. Local bands of all genres rule the roost here, so come ready to dance, mosh or gaze thoughtfully at your shoes. It’s a loud, happy, beautiful thing.
Bellmore, (516) 804-9925
The Old Mill Inn
Bringing a date to a slanty old grist mill on a quiet North Shore inlet may sound a little shady, but when you step inside, you’ll be transported to a chic restaurant/bar that serves up gourmet food and local brews. Antique furniture and dim lighting contribute to the old-world feel and are complemented by acoustic concerts and dinner cruises as the weather warms.
Mattituck, (631) 298-8080
The Spoon Cafe in Lindenhurst maxes out in all categories of hip coffeehouse awesomeness. “Oh yeah?” you may sneer. “Is there free internet? Can I hear a live musician singing bitter songs about his or her recent breakup? Can I get a complicated single-sourced caffeinated beverage with a uniquely adorable name?” Yes, yes and yes. “All right,” you may concede, still unconvinced. “But what if I want to bring a date and get a psychic relationship reading… And possibly also buy her a glass of wine, depending on how well the reading goes?” No problem. Go on a Thursday.
Lindenhurst, (631) 95-SPOON
If you’ve only ever come to Oyster Bay for a classic car show or the Oyster Fest, treat yourself by coming into town on a night when parking spaces exist, and taking in some blues at Canterbury’s. It’s not exactly the bar where everybody knows your name (unless you’re Billy Joel), but it does have a fridge full of craft beers whose names you’ve never heard of. Let the introductions begin.
Oyster Bay, (516) 922-3614
In recent years, there has been a feeling that strong local community is slowly fading out and being replaced by mass culture and the internet. The Patchogue Theatre has taken the opposite path. The historic building on Main St has been restored and reinvented as a not-for-profit local haven for music and the arts. The refurbished, 1200-seat theatre is graced by national acts of every variety, while the lobby itself welcomes a thriving local arts community with small concerts and festivals.
Patchogue, (631) 207-1313