NEPA Scene Open Mic returns to Tuesday nights at The V-Spot in Scranton on July 13
Typically, these free weekly events take the format of an open mic night and turn it into a friendly competition, rewarding the best standout acts with cash and prizes after counting up votes from the audience and judges, but this time, it’s all being stripped down to its essential purpose – giving up-and-coming and established local musicians, comedians, poets, actors, performance artists, magicians, dancers, and more the chance to showcase their talents, meet other artists, and hang out together while giving each act some extra publicity through the live stream and photos.
“We’re always listening to feedback from local artists, and right now, after more than a year of no shows, it’s clear that one of their top priorities is just getting back on stage in front of a live audience again, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to do that as soon as all government restrictions were lifted, which meant not waiting around for September,” NEPA Scene founder/editor Rich Howells said.
“Our NEPA Scene Rising Talent contests are typically held in 12-week ‘seasons’ twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Since we’re getting started in the middle of summer instead, we’re giving artists the other thing they’ve been asking us for – a straightforward open mic in a venue they love. While I think most performers understand that the contest and voting elements of our events are just added bonuses that allow us to reach a wider audience and give out free money, recording studio time, and other prizes that we wouldn’t be able to award otherwise, some feel that a competition of any kind adds pressure to their set or pits them ‘against’ others, so this summer, we’re going to take it easy and just let the performances speak for themselves.”
Sponsored by Samuel Adams and LT Verrastro, Inc., the NEPA Scene Open Mic will run every Tuesday night at The V-Spot (906 Providence Rd., Scranton) starting on July 13, with no set end date yet. Sign-ups for performers of all kinds start at 6:30 p.m., and the event begins at 7:30 p.m. Every act gets around 8-10 minutes of stage time. Everyone participating will be featured in the live stream on Facebook, and photos of each act will be made available for download in the open mic Facebook group, giving artists professional shots that they can use for their own promotion. (Artists must be 18 or older, and those who are 18-20 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Parents or legal guardians with an 18, 19, or 20-year-old must provide valid IDs for both parent and child in order to enter the venue.)
“As a bonus, we may add a featured act at the end of the night, like a band that normally wouldn’t play at this type of event performing a short set,” Howells said. “We’re always experimenting and trying out new ways to introduce local artists to new audiences.”
Open mics have been an essential part of NEPA Scene since the website launched in 2014, and The V-Spot has been the home of these events since 2017, hosting five seasons of NEPA Scene Rising Talent that broke Tuesday night attendance records at the Scranton bar and were voted the Best Open Mic in Northeastern Pennsylvania three years in a row (according to readers of Electric City and Access NEPA).
NEPA Scene’s last in-person event was the Rising Talent Finals Showcase on Nov. 26, 2019, and while COVID-19 prevented any of these open mics and showcases from coming back in 2020, NEPA Scene was able to team up with Ionic Development and The V-Spot to continue supporting local music by safely live streaming bands from the stage during the time the venue was closed to the public.
“The NEPA Scene open mics make the difficult job of booking unfamiliar acts a whole lot easier,” V-Spot co-owner Vinnie Archer said, noting that he has booked many new artists that impressed him from these events.
“There’s also a feeling of community between the artists and the audience when performing in a room our size. The energy put out does not go unnoticed or ignored – it is reciprocated like a shock wave. We can’t wait to start back up, hear the applause, and feel that energy all over again.”
In the past, each week has attracted crowds that are simply unheard of at other open mic nights in the area, and attending artists have formed new bands, collaborations, shows, and even other open mics after meeting each other there. Local musicians and comedians also established a surprising bond that has led to friendships and mixed music and comedy events all over Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Photo by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene