Updated: Apr 23, 2019
By: Aaron Cortinas
Why is this hibachi restaurant open at midnight? Follow the sound of electric guitars and drum machines to find out!
Mike’s Open Mike is a weekly open-mike at Yamato Japanese Steak House on Loop 323. Every Wednesday from 9:30 p.m. until midnight, anyone can perform. Performances range from indie rock, to punk and jazz.
“It’s a place where [bands] can get their foot in the door,” Michael Graham, the host and drummer of open-mike, says. Graham says that bands have connected and developed there. He says that some acts will start as “partial bands” and combine after playing with one another.
Singer-songwriter Silas William Alexander has played at Mike’s Open Mike for almost two years and says he has loved every minute.
“This is the most laid back, most welcoming open-mike I’ve ever played,” Alexander says.
“I’ve seen people go from not wanting to play at all … to just blossoming … because they had a place free of judgement and full of encouragement.” Alexander is one of many regular performers at open-mike.
There are also what Graham calls “wildcard” performances. Stand-up comedy routines, improvised raps and metal covers of Kesha and Lil Jon songs occasionally appear in the lineup.
Graham plays the drums for most bands at open-mike. He improvises his playing to match whatever the band needs. Graham and Alexander have developed a musical chemistry. Alexander says that Graham’s drums “[add] a layer and dimension” to his playing.
Despite his talent, Graham is humble.
“It’s not about me,” Graham says. “I always try to … make them sound as good as possible.”
In addition to the lack of pressure on performers to do well, there’s also no pressure on the audience to pay attention. As a result, people are usually chattering and laughing among themselves while acts are on stage.
Alexander says he knows he’s doing especially well when the crowd is quiet. One night, he and his girlfriend were playing to a packed house.
“We started playing, and people were a little interested,” Alexander says. “But we got to watch this ripple of silence spread across the crowd … as a performer [it’s] one of the best feelings.”
Mike’s Open Mike has built a supportive community of creative and experimental people. Anyone can perform anything.
“You just need your instrument,” says Graham.