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The Ramblin' Mike

Open Mic With Mike
by Michael Guthrie

Live Music

It was more than two and a half years ago when I first played the Hopvine Pub open mic, and I really liked the whole experience. Art abounds there, with a rotation of visual art by local Seattle artists, Scott's open mic, Barbara Buckland's singer/songwriter showcase and music on the weekends. I also consider the awesome food and local microbrews that are served by artists and musicians as art, and I still play the open mic on occasion as part of my musical circuit.
I decided it was time to meet the man behind this popular open mic. For 15 years now Scott Bellman has been playing music and writing songs. He has recorded four albums of his own material, a total of 40 songs. His main instrument is guitar, and he also plays some mandolin and banjo. Back in his college days in Iowa City (songwriter Greg Brown's old stomping grounds) Scott played the bars for cash. Now Scott plays music for his own enjoyment.
Scott works full time at a non-profit organization at the University of Washington, helping young people with disabilities pursue science-related careers. He does research, writing, counseling and project management. Scott enjoys writing and recording music, travel, carpentry, and the outdoors.
I asked Scott how he got started hosting the Hopvine open mic, along with a few other questions:
Scott, how long have you been host of this open mic?
"I started coming to this open mic when it first started in the fall of 1996. I was the backup host for a guy named Mike, so for awhile, even after I took over, it was called "Open Mic with Mike." A lot of people thought I was Mike in those early days. Mike quit after about a year and I became the regular host. Since then, the Hopvine open mic has dished up a few thousand performers, most of them under my watch, so I always get a kick out of people who come in for the first time and tell me how I should do things.
Although we're not the longest running open mic in town, we have gained a good reputation and we're frequented by a fun, loyal crowd. The Hopvine open mic was voted "Best Open Mic" by the Seattle Weekly readers in their "Best of Seattle" issue in 2001."
What styles of music do you get at your open mic?
"Mostly we see singles or duos with acoustic instruments, but we've had jugglers, comedians, poets, jug bands, political rants, drummers... We had a women shave her legs on stage as sort of an interpretive "I'm shaving my legs" piece. We've even had a marriage proposal on stage (the answer was yes), and a film crew from Trigger Happy TV."
What's your mission statement as host of this popular, award winning open mic?
"I enjoy the open mic because I feel good about providing a consistent place for neighborhood artists to come and do their thing—whatever that might be. For a lot of unknown artists or beginners, open mics are the only chance they have to interact with an audience. Since I write and record music myself, I know how important that can be.
I also enjoy the Hopvine regulars and staff. The current open mic crew (a great cook and two bartenders) boasts two musicians and a dancer. So there's never a shortage of creative people hanging around."
This lively open mic happens on Wednesdays, 8:30 PM sign-up, music starts at 9:00 PM. Everyone who is present at 8:30 gets on stage, and sets are usually 2-4 songs. The music continues until 11 PM. The Hopvine Pub (507 15th Ave. E., Seattle) has an excellent selection of microbrews, wine, great pizza and other tasty treats. It's an intimate room, with the stage on one side and with seats 180 degrees around—you could even have music without a mic. The Hopvine has some new speakers, though, for improved sound reinforcement. Try your hand at capturing the early crowd or, if you like a quieter room, wait until the crowd thins out later in the evening.
I think I will ramble on to the Espresso Americano/Victory Music open mic in Everett—I'm hearing very good things about it! See ya out there on the music highway. And remember, the Ramblin' Mike welcomes your comments.

Michael Guthrie is a singer/songwriter who regularly plays venues in the Northwest and is a Victory Music sound volunteer. He has produced his own CD and ran his own coffee house/cafe, The Village Green Cafe in Kaslo, BC, from 1973-79. He studied sound engineering and recording at Sound Master Recording Studios in North Hollywood, CA in 1987.



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