The Iguana Bar in Chorlton has an open mic every Tuesday that is run by successful musician Charlie Allen. There’s two good things about the night. The first is that they got a decent sound guy who sorts out the PA, which means someone is always there concentrating on the levels. It also means Charlie is free to organise and compere the night. The second, and most unique from my experience, is that whole thing is recorded for radio. The highlights of the open mic are played on the Late Junction with Jonathan Darwin on Manchester 106.6.
When I arrive at the Iguana Bar, Manchester legend Krazy Horse is singing about his own life. Krazy Horse has long grey hair in a pony tail and leaps bare foot about the stage blasting out his songs. This guy is an inspiration to anyone who thinks they are too old to enjoy playing music. You watch Krazy Horse, who is in his 60’s (I know this because he told us) and his enthusiasm rubs off on you. You'll be tapping your foot and shaking a tambourine before you know it.
Because of the popularity of the night and the number of musicians that have shown up Charlie has reduced each performance to 10 minutes. This is so everyone can get to play. It also makes for a good evening, because you get to see more variety that way.
I follow Krazy Horse with kaoss plus accordion and it takes a while to set up, so I’m conscious of the time. The sound guy isn’t phased by the unusual combination of instruments, but it clearly phases me because I forget to connect the sampler mic. I play Disappeared Friend, which is digital beat poetry, and then Loopy Juice, which is a completely daft piece about the type of booze that sends you mentalist. Jack Daniels is my enemy, what's yours? This song went down well in Hebden Bridge the previous week and there were people dancing along, but I feel I’m making too many mistakes to get it off the ground tonight.
After I’ve played a singer called Rick O’Shea tests out some spoken word and guitar picking. Then the awesome Alexx O’Shea plays saxaphone over a looped casio keyboard and kaossilator. Here is a musician who likes to push the boundaries of her art. You can read more of her in a previous Manchester blog I wrote about Illusions Bar on a Monday night.
Oscar and Greta play next and I’ve seen them at Iguana once before. Greta has a cracking voice and theres also some quality, dark lyrics in these songs. When Greta sings she has this meloncholy about her and it makes for a wonderful performance. There’s something uncertain and lonesome about their tunes, and they are always well received.
A guy from Stoke plays slide guitar on an instrument he’s made for himself. He tells us in a blues song that he built the guitar from an old wine box. In fact, the chorus tells of getting wood and squirting glue into holes, so I start to wonder if the song is about something else.
The only down side of the Iguana night is the beautiful game. They got major television coverage down here, so if there’s a big match on you may find yourself playing through the cheers and chants of a lively football crowd or waiting a little bit longer to play. But there are no major matches on tonight and the football crowd have assembled at the far end of the bar for some lesser kickings. The open mic and football coverage co-exists exceedingly well.
There are many more performers to come and this is a late night, sometimes going on into the early hours of the morning. But I’ve got to get back over the moors before the witching hour and have to make tracks around about 11ish, so I'm sorry not to have seen all the other performers.
A few nights later and I’m knocking back a beer and just finished watching True Blood. The second series was an enjoyable blood fest, but this new series is a disappointment. So I tune into Manchester 106.6 via the internet and find myself listening to an interview with Naymedici who I'm pleased to hear are playing Friends of Mine Festival - they deserve it.
At around 11’o’clock Jonathan Darwin is joined by a laid back Charlie Allen who explains that there was technical hitch with the open mic the previous Tuesday, and none of the acts were recorded. These things happen eh? However, he is to play a best of open mic acts instead. They play four open mic acts in total and these are mixed in with other famous performers of Charlie’s choice. To be honest I’d like to have heard more of the open mic sessions but that’s just me, and I suppose they got to keep a broad range of listeners happy.
There was a particularly good song by an outfit called Sam Hayne and The Blood Flames. They also use a cajon to good effect and there must be someone out there making a mint out of these things because they are popping up everywhere I go. There was also some brilliant Irish music and fiddle playing. And Charlie finished, neatly for me, because this is where my Iguana night began, with a song by Krazy Horse.
It’s a wonderful thing the people at Iguana Bar and North Manchester FM are doing for live music. Giving performers and musicians the opportunity to play and maybe even be on local radio. It’s not an all night long singer songwriter affair either and they actively encourage every kind of music and performance, which always make for a much more interesting night in my opinion. You can listen to the open mic show on the link below (every Friday night) and they also provide a play again service if you got other things to do on a Friday night.