Play to the Crowd

A westerly café provides a stage for local talent


It’s easy to see a show at a big concert venue. It’s harder to see really good local talent before it gets big. Want to be the first to be in the know? Well, at the Knickerbocker Café in Westerly, Shawn Allen has arranged that for you. Every Thursday at 8pm, the Knick hosts an open mic night, which is open to any and all performers.

“Most performers that have performed over the last few months are musicians, but we are open to all kinds of talent,” says Allen, who has been organizing the open mic night since last fall. “I like an open mic that has performers that stratify music genre, talent and skill. Amateurs are encour- aged to come.” The Knick boasts a large stage and back line, complete with a grand piano, B3 organ, various instrument amps and a drum set. “The equipment is premier, well-maintained, lending to musicians and bands sounding their best,” Allen says.

Typically, a host band is pre-booked for the night, which will open with a 15-minute set, and come back out to close with a 45-minute set. Other than that it is a first come, first serve for sign ups, and it is recommended to get there early because usually there are only ten other spots open. Bands are usually local, and some come out from New Haven, Hartford and Providence. A duo recently came down from the Poconos to perform. Each performer who wishes to play can select up to three songs, and sometimes people are partnered up on the spot, if there is a solo drummer and a solo guitarist.

Bands have ranged from Keep it Rolling, Down for Maintenance, No Recall, Blue Steam and Atlantic Avenue, to Lead By Example and Dan Lord and the Big Shots, and have performed all different genres from hard rock and classic rock to bluegrass, alternative and pop.

“The audience size has varied but overall we’ve been happy with the growing attendance and interest. We have many who are returning to see the great local talent and to play,” says Allen, who comments that a lot of younger performers usually draw a crowd of friends and family, as well.

If you are in a band, or know anyone who wishes to be a host band for the open mic night for July or August, you can contact Shawn.