The Salopian Open Mic night

Salopian Open Mic
Smithfield Road
Shrewsbury
July 5th

Having been raised in Church Stretton and going to school in Shrewsbury and loving this county as I do, one may suggest I may be a little partisan when it comes to reviewing Shropshire events. Not a bit of it. I will seek out the good and the bad and inform you of both in equal measure, thus is the lot of the reviewer. That said when I tell you that although I have lived in many areas of the U.K., and further away in Europe, I can say hand on heart that the best open mic nights and sessions I have ever been to have been in Shropshire, fact! So naturally it will be my intention over the next few months to seek them all out and share my thoughts with you.

Tonight, being Thursday July 5th, a warm, remarkably dry night, given current climate, I checked out the Salopian open mic night organised by acoustic music doyen, Fergus Reid. Fergus has worked incredibly hard at not only organising the whole event every Thursday at the Salopian, in Smithfield Road, but he also  sings, plays and compere’s too. I believe it is that level of commitment that ensures the integrity of the session and will tempt the more able players to want to jump in and get involved.

So unluckily for Fergus tonight’s event was happening with the backdrop of a cider festival. Music? Cider Festival? Should work shouldn’t it? Well yes it did. I arrived at the bar and was greeted with an ambience akin to the Wembley crowd as Geoff  Hurst popped in the winning goal against Germany in the 1966 world cup. Maybe it was even  just slightly noisier, one can only guess however, over in the music area there was little worry about those jollities and the consequential noise that was occurring.

Fergus, himself, was playing and was being accompanied by some incredible guitar work from local musicians Steve Bradley and Alan Williams. The note-work was stunning and there was an air of improvisation that gives live music its power. Recorded music is fine but live music has that something extra. With all the greatest recording equipment in the world I imagine it would still be impossible to capture that something extra that one gets from encountering a live experience.

A young pair of lads seriously impressed me; again a Shrewsbury band, known as “Two Blank Pages.” With an eclectic mix of homespun material and more known tracks too, the lads held the audience in their palms for the twenty or so minutes of their set. I combined the ages of the two of them and worked out they were still 17 years younger than me. Ouch, time and tide wait for no man it seems. However they stood ,they played, they sang and they entertained. You can check them out on “You Tube.” Do it, they are good.

Most importantly there was such a cross generation audience. It seems good music appeals to all ages and all ages can get together to make it.

So how does an open mic work? It is quite simple. On arrival if you wish to play you would approach the compere and he will find you a spot. In the case of the Salopian night you can find the session on Face Book. Look for “Salopian open mic,” and you will be directed there. That is where you can also message Fergus to book a spot. There isn’t a shortage of willing volunteers that’s for sure, so an early arrival is deemed prudent to avoid disappointment.

Then when it’s your turn the mics are arranged to your specification and the floor becomes yours. Some sessions are very strict on time and the amount of numbers you would be permitted to perform. Fergus gives the Artists a longer spot which gives the whole thing a concert feel and the Artists get a better chance to show what they can do. This is a healthy approach as musicians never seem to get the chance to fully showcase their talents, not so at the Salopian.

The evening is beautifully free of charge. There can’t be many places where one could watch such remarkable skills and talents for gratis. The discerning audience realised that fact and were having a great night. 

Eventually the hubbub from the cider festival either melted away or in fact one became inured to it. Whichever way it didn’t matter because there was such great stuff to hear it was easy just to lose yourself in the music and concentrate on the sounds.

In summary the Salopian offered an eclectic, enjoyable and welcome interruption into what could have been just another night. The Salopian Open Mic runs on Thursday nights from 8.30. Get your guitar out or just get your ears on and get along. It’s worth it. Going by my five star system I award this event a four star status.

Owen Lewis

 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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Comments

Coming from 'up north' I have to agree with you Owen about Shropshire having some cracking open mic nights. I've travelled with work around quite a bit and not seen anywhere do it as much or as well.

I didn't know about this open mic night at the Salopian but if it's every Thursday I'll take a look. There's a good session at the Globe in Coleham every Wednesday that I pop in on every now and again.

Found the site through Twitter of all places and thought I'd give it a look. Like what you're doing keep it up.

Mark

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