BRATTLEBORO — Open Mic hosted by Kevin Parry, a longtime tradition in town, is making a comeback in a new space.
“It’s a new day,” said Parry, a musician who has hosted weekly Open Mic events on Thursdays in different places in Brattleboro for about 30 years.
Starting Sept. 20, he’ll be hosting Open Mic at River Garden Marketplace on Main Street in Brattleboro from 6 to 8 p.m. every Monday. The new venue will have craft beer, vendors, food and live entertainment.
Parry is telling people to show up at 5 p.m. to sign up but eventually plans to have a way to sign up online.
“It’s going to be essentially acoustic music,” he said. “You can bring a small amp, electric bass or electric guitars.”
Drumkits will not be allowed but hand drums are welcome. Parry said he’s being asked to keep noise levels down.
The event is for music only — so no comedy, karaoke or poetry. Parry said it is possible those activities will be run by a different person in the future.
Open Mic participants are asked to come prepared to play for 15 minutes, roughly two songs. Parry is encouraging solo acts and small groups to come out. He said “jamming” may occur at some point, where musicians may be invited up to play during another act.
During part of the winter, Parry will be away and Jonny Sheehan will fill in as he has for many years.
Parry started hosting Open Mic at the Mole’s Eye in 1991 then it moved to Adagio until the Brooks House fire in 2011. The weekly event then occurred at the Marina Restaurant after it reopened following its own fire — until COVID-19 came along.
Open Mic stopped last year because of “masking and a lot of other stuff,” Parry said. He noted the restaurant could only operate at half capacity for a period of time during Vermont’s state of emergency, which was declared due to the pandemic.
“It was upsetting because I wanted this continuity,” he said. “I wanted to make it to 30 years. So I was interrupted but I totally understood the situation.”
Open Mic would be considered a high-risk activity because performers are in close proximity to one another and share microphones, Parry said. He’ll be sanitizing microphones after performances and suggests people bring their own mic if they have one.
“There is no mask ordinance at the moment but if there does become one, we will abide by it,” he said. “If anyone feels uncomfortable, I’m happy to wear a mask. This is all new for everyone here.”
Open Mic is a place for musicians to try things out or those seeking to become professional to practice in front of an audience, Parry said. He has generally found audiences to be receptive.
Musicians are welcome to play any kind of music, originals and covers. Parry is encouraging those who used to attend the event at the Marina to come to the River Garden Marketplace and also hopes to see some new, young performers.
“It’s important for the community in Brattleboro to support music, especially right downtown,” he said, having noticed there’s a lack of live music lately compared to places such as Dover where there could be three or four performers on any given night. “It would be nice to see that in Brattleboro again. Hopefully this will be a catalyst.”
Parry also stressed the importance of music in general.
“We live in really uncertain times,” he said. “There’s a lot of stress out there and music can help us offset the stress and help us relax and enjoy life.”
Parry has played at the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery and The Rollin’ Stone Food Truck in Dummerston, which share the same owners as the River Garden Marketplace. Parry said when the Marina discontinued the Open Mic, River Garden Marketplace co-owner David Hiler thought it would be a “great idea” to host it in his new venue.
“We’re excited River Garden Marketplace will be keeping the tradition of Kevin Parry’s Open Mic alive in Brattleboro,” Hiler said. “For almost 30 years, he has provided all of us amateur and pseudo-professional musicians a forum to showcase our various talents. We’re hoping to provide the same accessibility to local musicians in a new downtown location and with a few new twists.”
Mando X, featuring Parry on guitar, Mark Trichka on mandolin and Tim Thrasher on bass, will perform at the River Garden Marketplace during Gallery Walk on Friday, Oct. 1. Parry said the trio plays songs “off the beaten bath.”
The venue has a website and at rivergardenmarketplace.com.