When Darby Wilcox texted me last week to ask if I could help promote a new open mic night she is hosting in Travelers Rest, I did not have to give it much thought. I love Darby’s energy and commitment to the local music scene and if she wants to get together to talk about something new she is doing, who am I to say no to that? Plus, it also turned out that she needed a ride to the mechanic to pick up her car so we were really killing two birds with one stone here.
Darby just finished her first month of hosting a new open micnight at Travelers Rest’s Monkey Wrench. True to Darby form, she wanted this to be a unique twist on the conventional open mic night format and she ended up creating what might be the most creative night of music in the Upstate. She has placed an emphasis on up and coming singer/songwriters and inserted a competitive element to ensure that everybody on stage brings their A game.
Here’s how it works – ten musicians sign up every Wednesday prepared to perform at least two songs, preferably original material or covers that they have put their own special spin on. Three judges will select the winner of the evening and each of the weekly winners will compete for a grand prize on the final Wednesday of each month. The monthly winner will take home a significant cash prize while weekly winners and runners up will not be disappointed with tasty treats from 6 &20 Distillery, the featured sponsor of the event.
I asked Darby what made her want to get into this and she thought back to her early days in music performing live at Coffee Underground’s open mic night. “That is when I met Jacob Johnson, Neil Brooks, J. Michael King, and all the people that inspired me to get to where I am today,” she says as she explains that her goal is to provide an outlet younger musicians to develop their craft just as she did back at Coffee Underground. “I want to offer something that pushes them outside of their comfort zone but does so in a safe environment,” she tells me as this is part of her ongoing goal of doing her part to nurture our local music scene.
So far, her results are hard to ignore. The event’s first week saw five musicians sign up for the event but following weeks grew to the point that she had to make the decision to cut the list off at ten artists. February marked the first complete round of competition with Katie DeVere taking home the honor of the event’s first grand prize winner. One unexpected result is that watching these other musicians hone their craft on stage (some for the very first time) has inspired Darby herself to get back to writing her own music.
“I had gotten away from it for a while but once I started hosting this, I started writing for myself again,” she admits with a renewed hunger for her craft.
It is stories like these that remind me just how strong a community our local music scene is. It is not just about booking your next gig or selling your next album or t-shirt… it is about coming together and inspiring each other to be better musicians. As listeners, the rest of us can only reap the rewards every time we go out and take in a show
Darby’s open mic night runs from 6:30 to 8:30 every Wednesday night at Monkey Wrench.
A Sold Out Show & A Consolation Prize
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Susto coming to the Radio Room in a few weeks. What I should have added was the advice to stop what you were doing and buy your tickets right then and there because, sadly, the show is officially sold out. Check out the event page on Facebook and there’s a few people selling tickets but even those will likely be gone by the time you read this.
All is not totally lost as you still have a chance to see one of Susto’s openers, Frances Cone, at Horizon Records Saturday afternoon. Cone’s new album, Late Riser, has received praise from everyone from NPR to Rolling Stone. His sound is the perfect level of chill for a Saturday afternoon in a local record store making this one part of Friday night’s show that you should definitely not miss.
All That Booty
The Firmament continues to bring in some of the biggest shows in town and that does not change this Friday evening. YoMama’s Big Fat Booty Band is returning to the Upstate for a bootilicious evening of funk as only they can do. Not to be outdone, April B & the Cool will be warming things up with the type of show that would be worthy of their own place as top billing any night of the week.