Ask anyone who's worked in a coffee shop about open-mic nights, and they'll most likely roll their eyes. All that acoustic, bare-bones introspection can get depressing--not to mention dreadful. On the other hand, with an extra-plucky performer or two, open-mic nights can pack a house and keep people coming back for more.
But a rock-and-roll open-mic night? At the eastside heavy-metal bar DV8, no less? It could be either a brilliant chance to discover emerging rock talent or the same old crap--only louder.
Turns out it's a little of both.
First things first: On a recent visit, this was not a well-attended event. Apparently, an amplified open-mic night is interesting only to friends of the performers. And the Night Avenger.
Back to the music: One band auditioned a drummer during its only song. He wasn't so bad. This band had headbanging aspirations--thrashing drummer, slashing guitar work and Axl Rose-like frontman--but what it lacked was an image. These weren't long-haired rock stars, they were average-looking white dudes in sweatshirts and tennis shoes.
Another lead singer occupied Jimmy Buffett territory--very happy, slightly reggae, a little older. This guy's well-versed, but why is he in a metal bar and not some beachfront cafe in the Keys?
These weren't performances one would expect to see inside DV8's tattered walls. Here's a bar that routinely hosts bands with names like Something Must Die and the Hazmats. Where were the Ozzy wannabes? The Metallicas in the making?
And yet, the most entertaining performance came from the least metal of them all, a man (I'm told he's a regular) who slipped his two-song acoustic recital in between the amplified sets. Stopping and starting his songs, gently laughing, barely singing into the microphone, he delivered the most "unplugged" set of the night. In a coffeeshop, it would have been one of those painfully awkward displays, but here it was passable not for talent's sake but for his earnestness. It also turned pretty weird: His second song, a cover of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There," was a dedication to a woman in the (very small) crowd. She smiled, but she was probably just humoring him: This guy was kinda strange, after all.
And with open-mic nights, strange is good.
DV8, 5021 SE Powell Blvd., 772-2907. 9 pm Tuesdays. 21+. DV8 celebrates its third anniversary Friday, Dec. 5.