Local musician, luthier and business owner Sean Farley has been hosting Open Mic Night at Kimball's Pub, 972 Second St., for about two years. He started after returning from the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Arizona, where he learned the skills that allowed him to open his downtown shop, Guitarley's, 40 W. Fourth St.
At his shop, Farley crafts, refines and sells his own custom-made guitars and works on "any and all guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins - or any instrument with strings," as advertised on Guitarly's Facebook page.
Taking over Open Mic Night at Kimball's provided Farley with some extra money while he got his shop ready to open and some of his earliest clients when he opened the doors. Surely, the arrangement benefits Farley. It is symbiotic and about more than the money.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
"I get to be around musicians, develop business for [Guitarley's] and give those musicians something that will help them out," he said.
The relationship seems to work out well for Kimball's, too. Farley said that two years ago, Open Mic Night wasn't as popular as it is now.
"Now it's packed every night ... The same crew from the Bullfrog come over when they get done," he said. "They sit right up front and watch everybody - really engage. Plus, the guys from the [Outlaws] come every Tuesday night, and a few of their guys play."
Musicians of all levels of experience and from every sort of background can be found at Kimball's on a Tuesday night. From bluegrass to rap, Farley has seen it all. He's mic'd a bar stool for one performer to play spoons on. Another night, a regular showed up with his own backing-track that played through the PA system while he rapped. Even Kimball's employees Josh Riggins and Ryan Patterson get on stage. Patterson plays a melodica (a small, reeded instrument with a shortened keyboard on top that the musician sounds by blowing through) and sings, while Riggins plays acoustic guitar and sings.
Farley explained that while their music always has been great, their stage presence and performance have only gotten better.
"They sing harmonies, give each other solos; it's great," he said.
And while local music veterans and talent from out of the area have been known to make appearances, Farley explained that the most rewarding aspect of hosting Open Mic Night has been seeing the less-experienced performers start to come out of their shells or, as he referred to them, "the people that are passionate about their music, but have been keeping it hidden away in their bedrooms."
An experienced performer himself, Farley tries to give those players who want to play but are hesitant an extra push toward the stage. He has even played backup and sung harmonies when normally-solo performers want to hear a song filled out with harmonies or another guitar.
Something else Farley brings to Open Mic Night at Kimball's is the opportunity for musicians to obtain recordings of their performance. Farley said that if performers make him aware that they'd like a recording, for $25 he will mail them a disc or bring it to the next Open Mic Night for them to have.
With studio recording time costing up to hundreds of dollars per hour, it's not a bad way to get a good quality demo complete with audience interaction.
While the atmosphere is friendly and the crowd supportive, there are rules and regulations that newcomers should be aware of. First of all, since Kimball's serves alcohol, everyone in attendance must be at least 21-years-old. A PA system (complete with microphones, speakers, etc.) is provided, but performers are expected to bring their own instruments, amplifiers or other gear that they might need. Farley brings capos and stands for the guitar players, and tuners for everyone to use. Guitars (acoustic and electric) are the most commonly used instruments, but Farley has accommodated violinists, pianists, harmonica players and more - instruments that make up what he considers a lower-key "sort of 'coffee shop' sound."
Congos or a snare drum played with brushes are welcome, but full drum sets aren't allowed. Farley estimates an average of 10 acts every Tuesday, so setting up and tearing down a drum set several times would be a logistical mess. Plus, with the growing size of the audience, every bit of space is welcome. If someone is unsure of something or has any questions, Farley suggests contacting him or the staff at Kimball's.
Open Mic Night, hosted by Sean Farley, is held from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. each Tuesday night. Farley may be found most days at Guitarly' and for more information, visit www.guitarleys.com, or www.facebook.com /seanfarleymusic.