Magic happens in Dallas every Tuesday night. It all starts at 7 p.m., about 30 minutes after Steve Jackson, Opening Bell Coffee’s open mic host, puts out the sign-up sheet for local musicians to lock down a set time.
Jackson steps on stage every Tuesday to give the audience and performers the same spiel, more or less, he has been giving for the last nine years.
“No guns, no knives, no shivs, only bare-knuckle fist-fighting,” he jokes as he introduces the first acts. “In the event of a tie, there will be a spelling contest.”
In this quaint coffee shop that is home to the longest-standing open mic night in Dallas, each musician is given a two-song acoustic set. The spot has seen the likes of Charley Crockett and Leon Bridges in the early stages of their careers. Eighteen musicians who have performed at Opening Bell have since appeared on The Voice, Jackson says.
Although the coffee shop closes around 10 p.m., for many musicians their night continues a little less than two miles away in Deep Ellum.
Over at The Free Man, a Cajun cafe and lounge off Commerce Street, rowdy music by local band The Free Loaders rattles the seats of an even rowdier crowd before the venue’s 10 p.m. open mic. Ryan Forbes, a local singer-songwriter, says people are usually dancing on the bar as he walks in to sign up for a slot.
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Hosted by Ryan Berg, The Free Man’s open mic often turns into more of an open jam. Musicians prepared to perform as solo acts are generally joined by others in the audience who accompany them with bass, saxophone or drums on songs they have never heard before.
With The Free Man closing its doors around 1:30 a.m., there is just enough time to swing by Adair’s Saloon right next door for their open mic hosted by Scotty Issacs, which runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
It is a quieter, more tame spot than The Free Man. This hole-in-the-wall honky tonk’s stage has held the weight of such country giants as Jack Ingram and The Dixie Chicks.
Every stop on this Tuesday night open mic circuit is unique and harbors up-and-coming talent in the area. These three spots are a must for anyone looking for new local artists to obsess over.