Every Wednesday, open-miker Matt Cantor gives you the skinny on a local open-mic night so you'll know which stages to call home.
This Monday, Fergie's cozy upstairs bar was packed with people, all gathered before an old piano as if it were a fireplace. The open mic was set to begin at 9 p.m., and that's when I arrived. I was too late: the performers' sign-up sheet was completely full when I entered. So I settled in to watch, and was treated to a superior open mic session.
The tone was set by a sign scrawled on a blackboard: "Be nice to each other
." And under that: "Be in tune
." Those pieces of advice summed it up: it was a friendly, chilled-out atmosphere, but people took their performances seriously. And it paid off: the show, which included full bands, jazz pianists, solo banjo and guitar acts, was captivating. Hosts Jonas and Phil kept things well-organized, and lent drum and bass accompaniment to a few acts. They also injected some humor, particularly during a mid-show trivia session. It was Presidents Day, so three contestants were chosen to answer quizzo-style questions; the winner received a free beer.
That winner, Andrew Hink, was also one of the night's great performers. He resembled Ben Folds in voice and lyrics (one excellent line: "If I crash and burn/ the world still turns"), as well as a hard-driving piano style. But rather than Folds-esque piano pop, his songs were rooted in jazz and blues. Hink was among a roomful of talent, some traditional, some innovative; some established, some new to the scene. A standout player was Brian Ashby, who delivered string-bending acoustic blues in a wail worthy of the materialwell worth checking out. Bryan Calvetti played catchy reggae-infused rock, and Dave B. put passion into performances on both guitar and piano. Kiley Ryan sang in a warm and steady voice over banjoan instrument she'd learned days before. And Anam Owili-Eger played sleek, jazz-infused soul with a powerful beat.
Whether you plan to play or to watch, Fergie's is worth dropping by on a Monday night. Alongside the good music, there's a quality beer selection, and the pub grub is tasty. But if you're there to put your talents on display, be sure to show up good and early.
The nitty-gritty for performers
: Tues., 8:30 p.m. sign-up, 9 p.m. show, Fergie's Pub, 1214 Sansom St., 215-928-8118. Performers get 15 minutes or 3 songs each.