North Texas Daily

Stand-up acts continue a legacy of performance at open-mic nights

Stand-up acts continue a legacy of performance at open-mic nights

Stand-up acts continue a legacy of performance at open-mic nights
July 19
14:36 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer


The brew house is packed full of people whispering, guitars tuning and papers crinkling. While some people sip on beers, others chug a gallon of water to calm their nerves. There’s unwavering tension in the air mixed with tapping feet and long, deep breaths.

But Caleb Coonrod, who hosts these open-mic nights, is used to the sight.

In front of him is are veteran attendees and first timers alike. There are musicians, comedians, poets and more waiting to get up on stage to share their talents, but Coonrod never knows what new lyrics or witty jokes the night will bring.

It’s just a regular Thursday to some – to Coonrod, it’s more. For him, Thursday nights mean open-mic nights at Audacity Brew House.

Coonrod, who helped start up Audacity’s open mic nights almost a year ago, wanted to continue on the legacy that Banter, an old bar and open-mic hotspot, had to leave behind when they closed.

“I wanted a place where all of us hell raisers of the night or people who just can’t go home when everything else closes could come together and have a great time,” Coonrod said. “It was the perfect opportunity.”

Two nights later in a Denton apartment, however, the show goes on in a different manner.

With a mic in hand and a black backdrop illuminated by a spotlight behind , comedian Taylor Higginbotham sits in front of about 30 pairs of eyes all fixated on him. Higginbotham is performing at a Comedy Guerrilla show, an intimate comedy performance started by fellow Denton comedian Angel Garcia. With notes in hand and a smile on his face, he jokes with the crowd in front of him. They laugh, they grin, they cry (tears of laughter) and they interact with Higginbotham.

Although the show may not be as large as an open mic night at a bar in town, Higginbotham is still able to get with his fellow comedians and make people laugh.

“The idea to start [these shows] came from venues like The Dirty Dungeon and Lion’s Den closing down,” Higginbotham, who also started up music and comedy group E Third, said. “There weren’t many outlets [for performers] outside of a bar, and I just loved the atmosphere of people interacting, loving or hating the band and talking until dawn.”

While the two forms of entertainment differ, they both provide an outlet for anybody to share their talents and interests.

Mable Peabody's - 1125 E University Dr. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Mable Peabody’s – 1125 E University Dr. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Venues all around Denton – including Audacity, LSA and Mable Peabody’s – provide a schedule of open-mic nights and shows to where there is almost an opportunity to perform every night. Coonrod, who said there is no bad blood between all the different shows in Denton, attends as many nights and shows that he is able to. Not only does every show have something new to bring to the table, it also allows for new performers to contribute to Denton’s growing performance scene.

“There should be no competition when it comes to art,” Coonrod said. “Instead, we are all providing an outlet for people to come and share what they’ve got.”

Each week, there are 12 open slots for Audacity’s open-mic nights. At Comedy Guerrilla, eight performers take part in an interactive performance with the crowd. Although that may not seem like a lot in the eyes of some people, Coonrod said that every week at every venue, performers bring something fresh.

One veteran performer, musician John Schaab, has lived in Denton since 1989 and has been playing guitar for over 40 years. Although Schaab works in the technical side of the radio industry and said he just loves making music, you will usually find him either signed up to perform at an open-mic or in the audience cheering on whoever is up on stage.

“Sometimes I’ll be in the crowd, relaxing and having a few beers. But there are also times where I’m up there with my guitar, doing what I had wanted to do 45 years ago,” Schaab said. “I’m just an old man wanting to have fun, and now that I am older, it’s important for me to not only teach people new things, but to learn even more from others. It’s my time to be irresponsible.”

Schaab said that the shows and open-mics provide Denton performers with more than just a stage and a few listening ears. Whether it is a veteran on stage or a first time act, there is an overall sense of camaraderie among several different people.

“Denton has such a rich music heritage,” Schaab said. “Last week’s featured artist was a 15-year-old, and now this week it’s a 68-year-old man. No matter who you are or what you do, it’s as easy as just signing up and getting up there.”

Not only do these opportunities provide for the chance to perform for fellow residents, it also gives performers a shot to make it one step further. Coonrod, who is in a band called “Remain,” said he has been involved with the opportunities open-mics bring to these artists ever since he moved to Denton four years ago.

Through these collection of shows, Coonrod said the performers form a community that works together to push these artists deeper into their careers.

“Pretty much everyone I know I met at some sort of open-mic night,” Coonrod said. “It’s like, if you show up to an open mic show for the second time, you’ve pretty much been bitten by the bug. We’re here to make connections, meet new people and book gigs for these people who deserve to have their talents heard.”

And although the E Third and Comedy Guerrilla house shows are usually smaller, the sense of community is just as strong.

“A performer needs to use open-mics as a means to get up on stage to hone their craft,” Higginbotham said. “[These shows] can and should also be used to share and improve ideas, to network, to find other outlets for expression, and ultimately connect other people struggling to been seen or heard.”

Even though Denton hosts a daunting array of open mic nights and house shows, Coonrod said people shouldn’t feel intimidated to get up in front of others to perform their craft. In spoken word, comedy and music, Denton’s scene for artistic expression is supported through these venues.

“These shows provide a way for college students and senior citizens to come together to celebrate this common interest that they have,” Coonrod said. “Whether it’s good, bad, happy, hearty or serious, it doesn’t really matter because everyone is there to learn, feed off of each other and just have an amazing time.”

Featured Image: Audacity Brewhouse – 1012 Shady Oaks Dr. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

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