Moving to a new city three years ago meant trying out all the open mics, hoping to find a "listening room" where the open mic was the attraction, rather than a distraction (ha!) from what most of the clientele wanted to do (eat, drink, be merry, etc.). It took a while, but it finally became crystal clear that, for St. Louis, The Lone Wolf on Tuesday nights was the only choice. The thing about open mics is, it can be the perfect night, the perfect venue, the perfect location, and the perfect crowd... and it will still be a train wreck without the right host. In fact, The Lone Wolf had a Tuesday night open mic a couple years back, which I attended and enjoyed; a couple times, there were even some other folks there besides me and then-host Matt M. Finding the right leader has made all the difference for the current incarnation of The Lone Wolf's open mic brilliance. The fact that this night has literally become a destination (I'm always impressed at how many itinerant musicians stop by) is a tribute to the marvelous job Steve P. is doing with this affair. What does an awesome open mic host do when they're being awesome?
- Make it about the crowd - it's fine to open up with a song or two and get folks in the mood, but the host should not perform considerably more than the average visitor.
- Manage the room - Steve has laminated flyers on every table that gently remind everyone about the culture of the open mic, which means he (almost) never has to remind the room to listen.
- Maintain equity - as much as possible, everyone should get the same amount of time. Whatever the rules are (X songs, Y minutes, etc.), they must be enforced. Cliques and anarchy can be poisonous to an open mic.
- Tweak the sound - not all instruments are created equally, and not everyone maintains the same mouth-to-mic distance. The awesome host really pays attention to levels for each performer and helps them sound their best.
- Celebrate the performers - everyone has their own backstory and it's not necessarily obvious when they get onstage. You never know what obstacles someone had to overcome to walk up to the center of that room.
Congratulations to Steve and the whole Lone Wolf crew on your first anniversary. You have a genuine hit on your hands.