Open Mike at Java Joe's

It is another Monday night in San Diego. Another week of classes or work are ahead, and people are already asking, “”Is it Friday yet?””

At Java Joe’s open mic night at 1956 Bacon Street in Ocean Beach, Monday nights are a lively mix of song and laughter. Wendy, the open mic’s emcee, takes the stage and leads everyone in a rendition of the open mic theme song. The crowd knows the song well — many of them come to Java Joe’s every Monday night. They come in baseball caps and business suits, and play guitars, saxophones or flutes. One man even plays his homemade percussion instrument. Each night features a wide variety of performers, well worth the $3 cover charge.

There is a myth about open mic nights: that they are a sort of breeding ground for raw, unbridled talent. In most cases, this is not true. A usual open mic will have a handful of girls singing about ex-boyfriends and guys growling warped renditions of the blues. There are always one or two gems but for the most part it is painfully obvious why some people have record deals and other’s don’t.

At Java Joe’s, there are more than just a few gems. Every performer is unique, and shockingly, they are very good. On Monday night (Oct. 9th) the line-up began with Matt Carone, who, after hearing a few jokes about his last name, claimed it was French for “”I don’t give a shit.”” Imagine his set as Bob Dylan as a Hell’s Angel.

The dim lighting and intimate setting embraced all the performers who took the stage. Whether they made mistakes or stole the show, Wendy was never condescending or insulting. He complemented everyone and the crowd followed his lead.

Later in the evening, it was Johnny Love’s turn. Johnny must have been a thespian in high school because his 10-minute set combined humor and camp with a rich voice and great songs. Unlike most open mics, Java Joe’s allows dance, comedy and poetry. Any oddball talent is good enough for their stage, as long as it does not exceed the two-song/10-minute time limit.

So will any of the performers at open mic nights become the next Jewel? Maybe. Or, then again, probably not. After the last latte has been poured and the coffee filters have been emptied, everyone goes back to their day jobs. If you drive two hours north to Los Angeles on any given Wednesday (most open mics in L.A. are on Wednesday nights) you will find an entire calendar section of L.A. Weekly full of open mics from Common Grounds in the suburbs to Highland Grounds in the city. Anytime live music is played in Los Angeles, even if it is someone playing the xylophone, there is always the underlying hope that, somewhere out in the audience, there might be an A&R rep, and a waitress could become a rock star within a week. Is there any truth to this illusion? NO. In Ocean Beach, it’s all about music that may never come out of your stereo but will still echo in your head.

In a time when decent entertainment is expensive and most concert tickets are over $40, Java Joe’s is an affordable yet fun way to spend a Monday night — especially since nobody cracks open the books until Wednesday anyway. The sign-ups begin at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information check out the Java Joe’s Web site: http://javajoes.org, or call (619) 523-0356.