You can’t swing a drumstick in this town without hitting a musician.
With so much talent — or wannabe talent — in the valley, it’s not surprising that the number of open mic venues has grown from three to six over the past year. And the nights to strut or strum one’s stuff now total five.
“There is such a great talent pool in Jackson Hole,” said John Verdon, the host of open mic nights at both Elevated Grounds and the Village Cafe. “The whole goal is to give people a way to kickstart their musical expression. They are not being judged. They can just come on and bring the stoke.”
Musician Cord Reynolds has attended more than a dozen open mics in various locations, and he agrees.
“It’s really a chance to do whatever you want,” he said. “Nobody has any expectations of you. You show up and if you screw up, it’s not a big deal.”
The granddaddy of the open mic phenomenon here in the valley is the Jackson Hole Hootenanny at Dornan’s in Moose.
Held at 6 p.m. every Monday night, the Hoot celebrates its 964th show on Monday.
The Hootenanny goes back half a century
to when Bill Briggs held “Teton Tea Parties” under a bridge in Grand Teton National Park, where artists gathered and sang together. In the ’90s the Hoot moved to Dornan’s, with a short stint in town. Like the other open mics around the valley it features both established and new Jackson musicians as well as troubadours passing through.
For the past seven years at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays during the winter and summer, the Village Cafe in Teton Village has held its own open mic event.
“The whole thing started out with sporadic jamming and they [the participating musicians] liked not having a whole lot of structure,” said Verdon, who is also the bartender at the VC. “It is loose, controlled chaos, and not as structured as the Hoot. It’s good for those who have never played one before. People read poetry, play guitars, flutes, keyboard, horns, drums — really any instrument they would like.
“Good collaborations happen at the VC,” Verdon said.
Starting today from 8 to 10:30 p.m. at Haydens Post, a new weekly open mic called Songwriter’s Alley will fill the Wednesday night slot. Open to songwriters and musicians of all ages, the first two months will feature an extended set by a local songwriter each week.
“The format will model typical sign-up-and-perform open mic nights,” Aaron Davis, the host and a musician, told the News&Guide, “with the exception of two unique angles: original music will be encouraged — though not mandatory — and an established local/regional songwriter will be featured each week by playing an extended, MTV Unplugged or eTown-type performance with the opportunity to tell stories behind the songs to a listening audience.”
The musicians performing sets include Michael Batdorf of One Ton Pig, Pat Chadwick of the Flannel Attractions, Seadar Rose of Screen Door Porch, Bo Elledge and Dusty Nichols of Canyon Kids, Peter “Chanman” Chandler of Tram Jam/Chanman Roots Band, Madelaine German of Maddy and the Groove Spots, Taylor Upton and Leif Routman of Black Mother Jones, Jack Tolan and Bobby Griffin of Sneaky Pete and the Secret Weapons and Wyatt Lowe.
All performers will be offered one free drink, half off on food and entry into a weekly drawing for an instrument accessory (tuner, strings, etc.), donated by Melody Creek Guitars, which is sponsoring the Wednesday night events.
The host for one of the Thursday night open mics is singer-songwriter David Cattani, who runs the show at the Virginian Saloon, starting at 8 p.m.
Cattani, who is a Jackson transplant by way of St. Louis, has made his living as a musician for the past seven years. He and his musician girlfriend, Teresa Graveman, moved here a year ago.
“The Virginian open mic is the only continuous one in town,” Cattani said. “It runs during the winter and summer months plus the off season, except when a holiday falls on a Thursday.”
Cattani said that when he moved here he took the time to see what the open mic situation was in town and couldn’t find a consistent one. He approached the Virginian and they agreed to let him host there, even in the off season.
Ten times last winter he also started and hosted an open mic on Sundays at the Mangy Moose, catering to those musicians “fresh off the plane,” he said. “The focus was on tourists as well as locals.”
Another place on Thursdays for locals to play is Elevated Grounds on the Village Road near Teton Pines. The event has been held for the past two years during the winter and summer. It re-opens Thursday.
“We are calling it Apres Mic Night this year as it starts a little earlier now, at 5 p.m.,” said Herndon, who hosts this one as well as the VC’s. “We have beer and cocktail specials — an apres ski happy hour — and it goes until 9 p.m.
“It is definitely a very intimate open mic, a completely different world than VC, which has more of spirited crowd,” he said. “At Elevated people seem to be more attentive. It’s a smaller venue than the VC so it offers an intimate situation. We have had thespians and people reading poetry as well as guitar players and vocalists. We have even had 10-year-old kids come and play.”
Rounding out the week are open mics at 6 p.m. Sundays at Pinky G’s. The event was the brainchild of Cattani, who hosted from early this past spring until the offseason. The musical opportunity is now hosted by staff from the pizzeria.