On Wednesday, September 29, Casa Nueva Cantina, 6 W. State St., was buzzing with crowds eager to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of live music.
Every Wednesday, Casa Nueva hosts an open mic night for artists of all kinds. The open mic evening encourages a sense of community within the local music scene. Artists are given an opportunity to network with each other and get to know people who love their music. Sometimes musical groups form as a result of connections forged at an open mic night.
Josh Brown, Reservations Coordinator at Casa Nueva, likes to provide a place where artists can perform and connect with each other.
“There will be a certain group of people who will become regulars,” Brown said. “They will start playing, bring their friends and sometimes they will play with each other on stage. Sometimes that’s how bands are formed: by musicians collaborating with each other on an open stage. This is one of the reasons I really love doing it because you can discover some pretty cool talent.
Many artists have found their place in Athens. The group ACCHA, who previously attended the open mic parties at Casa Nueva, found success after making her debut in Athens. Currently, the folk group is touring the United States, performing to sold-out audiences. In January 2022, CAAMP will perform in a concert alongside the Avett Brothers, among other groups.
Brown estimated that performances come from singer-songwriters about 75% of the time. Other acts often seen at open mic parties include comedy, dancing, and improvisation. During open mic evenings, musicians can present original works in a low-stakes environment.
Performance is a skill that must be cultivated. For artists, an open stage opportunity offers a vital learning experience. Evan Seurkamp remembers learning a valuable lesson about being less self-critical on stage during one of his first public performances. After dropping his opening pick, he froze and thought he was making a fool of himself. But, in reality, people watching him enjoyed his performance and didn’t notice any mistakes.
“After that, I talked to some people, and they said, ‘You were awesome. You were awesome! ‘ Seurkamp said. “And I asked my family who was watching, and they said, ‘I don’t even remember you messed up. “I always think about that. If you think you messed up or didn’t do a good job, chances are the other people watching you are having a good time. And in the end, no one is. really remembers that stuff anyway.I think it was an important lesson for me.
During COVID-19, many restaurants closed for a while. At Casa Nueva, the open mic evenings were closed from mid-March 2020 to June 2021. The reopening of the open mic evenings remains an exciting memory for many musicians.
“This summer, the first open mic they had, it was slammed. It was crazy, ”said Kelby Primmer, a frequent open mic artist at Logan. “There were a lot of people here, and everyone was super excited to see people playing first in a year. It was really great.
Brown hopes the open mic nights will continue to provide local artists and the Athens community with mutually beneficial opportunities for years to come. The open mic evenings not only benefit the community, but they also benefit the business of Casa Nueva. Sometimes people who come to a restaurant for an open mic night find that Casa Nueva also has a restaurant besides a bar, and they decide to try its food.
“It’s a good, two-way, symbiotic relationship,” Brown said. “Sometimes people will be here for dinner and they will say, ‘Oh, there’s music. I’m gonna stay, hang out and see these musicians. It works both ways.