Blondie’s Open Mic: No Musician Left Behind

By Diover Duario
Flapjack Chronicle staff

On any given Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., if you wander up LK Wood and California street in Arcata, you might smell and hear it. The scent of freshly brewed coffee, a dozen lit cigarettes and a symphony of 20 or so people clapping and singing inside a packed coffee house. A festive sensory spectacle customary to open mic nights at Blondie’s.

“I feel lucky working here,” says Tessa Fray, a barista and cashier working at Blondie’s Food and Drink for over two years. She’s been on the clock for many an open mic night and says despite the greater foot traffic even all her co-workers enjoy the shift.

Among her most memorable experiences in open mic is when a performer once stopped playing in the middle of a song to buy everyone a beer and had everyone shotgun it together. He then played on where he left off.

It’s tough not to enjoy working on a busy night when everyone is in high spirits, she says.

“Whether or not they’re regulars, the majority of people who are here are really friendly.”

The audience is treated to a vast assortment of music every Thursday. An intense, funky four-minute Jazz bass exhibition, a searing Eddie Cochran cover, a shoegaze rendition of “Baby Got Back,” and even Irish hymns in sung a cappella are common amidst a diverse musical scene that come every week to Blondie’s. A regular performer consists of a trio called Pussy Trails performed their song Missis Mashed Potatoes (available on Youtube) driven by an acoustic guitar not unlike a slapstick Beastie Boys tune. The entire room seemed to answer the call for a good time.

It’s not surprising musicians love playing at Blondie’s given the sense of community bred from a collective sense of musical appreciation. They meander amongst the crowd drinking and having fun while cheering on their fellow performers as they await their turn.  For many local musicians Thursday is circled on their weekly schedule.

“Everyone here seems to want to be here, [in] a very supportive atmosphere for musicians,” says Fray.

Guitarist and songwriter Sean Fettis, a regular musician at open mic night for the past three years, says that the musicians are drawn to the kind of people who shows up.

“There’s no one who’s going to come on stage and get booed,” he says. It’s a great outlet for musicians looking to perform regardless of experience.

Short of a record deal, for an aspiring musician it’s like a dream come true. A supportive outlet for any form of musical expression accepted by every willing participant that serves food, booze, and cigarettes. Though there’s registration, organizers usually welcome drop-ins. There’s a house guitar for anyone willing to step up and fill time or close the night. They even book shows during the week for free. And there’s no admission so one could invite as many friends or family to the show.

For many musicians here it seems that Thursday brings a kind of thirst only Blondie’s can satisfy.

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