Skip to main content

Open mics in York County: Rules to know

It's a Tuesday night at the Mexitaly Brick Oven Brewhouse and A.D. Chandler is leading things off for open mic night.

The singer-songwriter starts off the night by performing a few of his own songs before handing the stage over to other performers who have come out on a Tuesday night to play music.

This night, Chris Kulkusky follows Chandler, playing his own songs on a ukulele. His songs aren't some kind of Tiny-Tim-Tiptoe-Through-The-Tulips homage. One tune is about having a shot at redemption. Another has a chorus that concludes, "I want to die like Jesse James."

"It's a great way to get out and perform," Kulkusky, a 31-year-old York resident who has been playing music since high school. "It has a real community feel. I've met a lot of great people through the open mic scene."

That's part of it, building a community. But there is more to open mics than that.

For bar/restaurant/coffeehouse owners, it's a way to get inexpensive live music on an otherwise slow night. Most open mics are on weekdays or, in the case of Holy Hound in downtown York, Sunday nights.

For musicians, it's a chance to try out new material, perform before a largely sympathetic audience and network with other musicians. Bands have been formed at open mics. Musicians have snagged gigs from auditions at them.

The businesses benefit, as do musicians.

"It's a great way for musicians to showcase new material and meet new people," Chandler said. "It's a win-win situation."

There are plenty of open mics in the region and they vary from small, mostly acoustic sing-songwriter kind of showcases to full-out jams.

For instance, the open mics hosted by guitarist Art Wachter at the Wagon Shed in New Freedom is acoustic only. The Thursday night open mic hosted by veteran drummer Dodd Gross at the Racehorse Tavern in Thomasville, features a full backline and caters to those seeking to jam with fellow musicians. (Bass players and guitarists need only bring their instruments and pedals, if they use them, Gross said. Drummers, if they are heavy hitters, should bring their own "breakables," he notes, speaking from experience.)

There are few rules to open mics, mostly common-sense. Performers should show up prepared to play. Don't hog the stage. Jamming with others is encouraged, but mindlessly noodling through a song you don't know can easily turn into difficult-listening music for the audience.

"Just don't think that because it's an open mic that you can just go and plug in and do anything," Chandler said.

Rod Goelz, a York-based guitar teacher and leader of the eclectic and eccentric band Groove Jones, hosts an open mic at the Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg and has some suggestions for musicians.

"If you want people to play with you, pick neutral songs, standards, or songs that can be quickly learned," he wrote in a Facebook message. "Nine minute Tool covers are not a way to win friends."

The blues and classic tunes by the Stones, the Beatles or Dylan are usually safe, he said.

Be respectful of other performers waiting their turn on stage. Depending on the length of the sign-up list, performers should expect to play anywhere from three to five songs.

And, the single-most important rule, is stick around.

"Don't leave after your set," Goelz said. "An open mic is a supportive environment. Show support to your musical allies, and they will you. Opportunities to play often occur because of supportive friends made at open mics."

Open mics

Here are a few open mics in the area.

Bube's Brewery: 102 N. Market St., Mount Joy, Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

Burning Bridge Tavern: 108 Hellam St., Wrightsville, Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Holy Hound: 57 W. Market St., York, Sundays at 8 p.m. 

Mexitaly Brick Oven Brewhouse: 2440 E. Market St., York, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Mudhook Bewing Company: 34 N. Cherry Lane, York, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Racehorse Tavern: 738 N. Biesecker Road, Thomasville, Thursdays at 9 p.m.

Shank's Tavern: 36 S. Waterford Ave., Marietta, Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

The Cove: 1500 S. George St., York, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. 

The Other Place: 10 S. Highland Ave., York, Fridays at 9:30 p.m.

The Pub on the Trail: 3594 N. Susquehanna Trail, Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Tourist Inn: 671 W. Market St., Hellam, Thursdays at 8 p.m.

The Wagon Shed: 109 N. Second St., New Freedom. held once a month on concert weekends at the venue. Check for the schedule. Acoustic only.