Channel Your Inner Marina Abramovic At One of NYC’s Best Open Mic Nights

By Kate Fustich

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Open mic nights are among the many long-lost visions of NYC. Sure, “Smelly Cat” and that weird song about cows from Rent seemed like good ideas at the time, but the 90’s are over, right? Surely there are no future Elliot Smiths to be found in gritty East Village basement stages?

The level of creative control in music scenes today is unprecedented, largely because of the internet. YouTube and SoundCloud have become our modern day open mic platforms, accessibility is unprecedented, and one doesn’t even need to put on underwear to perform.

However, it would be a mistake to miss out on the quietly thriving open mic scene that still populates music venues and poetry cafes. Open mic nights create a very real and very visceral artistic performance community that is difficult to find otherwise, particularly in the creative wastes of NYU. It’s an environment difficult to replace with clicks and hits, no matter how fire that mixtape may be.

Whether you are a writer of poetry, a singer of songs, or a performer of art, there are many spaces with their doors open to you.

Bluestockings — 172 Allen St.

On the last Tuesday of every month, this community-run bookstore hosts a women’s and trans open mic night. Performers can “deliver (up to) eight minutes of poetry, prose, songs and spoken word.” It’s a cozy, informal setting that prides itself on creating a safe space for performers and audience members alike.

Bowery Poetry Club — 308 Bowery

The 15+ year-old Bowery Poetry Club serves as a haven for new and experienced poets alike. The Club features workshops, readings, and a weekly open mic every Monday night. The open mic is limited to poetry, and the best poem of the week (as chosen by the audience) is published online.

Nyuorican Poet’s Cafe — 236 E. 3rd St.

Few venues are as legendary as the Nyorican. Lines regularly extend down the block, no matter what day of the week it is. Despite hosting legends and nationally-ranked slam competitions, the Nyuorican has remained committed to providing a consistent open stage to new performers. There are six different open mic showcases with themes ranging from jazz to comedy to slam poetry. Definitely get your tickets in advance and beat the line.

Pete’s Candy Store — 709 Lorimer St.

This Sunday night open mic series has been running for 15 years strong. Pete’s, with its boozy carnival atmosphere, is particularly popular for up-and-coming musical acts. Norah Jones is known to be a regular here, and she is just one of an extensive list of seriously impressive past performers.

Postcrypt Coffeehouse — 1160 Amsterdam Ave.

If you’re a performer looking for a student-friendly space to get started, you might just have to put aside any Columbia-related hang-ups. The Postcrypt Coffeehouse is a Columbia University-based space with a weekly open stage (they specify “open stage” seeing as there are no microphones). The shows take place in the teeny-tiny basement of St. Paul’s Chapel and provide one of the more intimate settings of any open mic.

Village Underground — 130 W. 3rd St.

The Sunday night open mic series touts itself as the “oldest and most prestigious” in the world. Though it’s a pretty big claim, it’s difficult to disagree. For many, performing at the Village Underground is a musical rite of passage.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

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