Open Mic Nights: Building safe spaces and communities

As a sophomore, I attended my first open mic night known as Tongues in Common. There, I was impressed by the resilience of art, and have been enamored with the art scene ever since.

Now as a senior, I am devoting every other week to highlight different aspects of the Horry County art scene and their perseverance through trying times. This week, I begin by going back to my roots: open mic nights. Here, I highlight Fresh Brewed, revisit Tongues in Common, and discuss Surfside Public Library’s pause on open mic nights.

Fresh Brewed, a coffee shop and community resource center, hosts a regular Thursday night open mic with the goal of promoting a struggling music scene and providing a safe space for the community.

Jose Rangel, host of the Fresh Brewed open mic and musician, said the event is unique because of their accessibility for young adults that can’t be reached in a bar that might involve being surrounded by alcohol or late nights. Rangel said Fresh Brewed is open-minded, allowing for a range of performances from hardcore punk to spoken word poetry. He said the attendees are supportive of one another, offering constructive criticism and encouragement.

“Just the idea of community and how it goes in tangent with the values of this place being a community resource center,” Rangel said.

He said the music scene suffered a lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he remains hopeful. Rangel said the open mic aims to continuously be a platform for new musicians and promote the local music scene.

“It’s been recovering, and it’s been nice to see younger people, like high school students, here,” he said. “Because there are worse spots for them to be, this is like a safe place.”

He said that this program was created by Brian Roessler, a communication professor at Coastal Carolina University, in hopes to supplement the music scene. Roessler said the program was created in 2009 and was intended to be an event where everyone could feel safe on stage. He said Fresh Brewed is unique because it is a listening space, meaning there is not as much noise or audience distraction like in a bar or restaurant.

“[It’s] giving somebody that opportunity to be listened to,” Roessler said. “It actually can, for some people, build a stage presence even more because you realize you’re being listened to.”

Th e open mic is every Thursday night at Fresh Brewed, located at 933 Broadway St, Myrtle Beach, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tongues in Common felt a diff erent impact from COVID-19. Linda Phillips, co-organizer of the event and owner of Yoga in Common where the event is held, said she was shocked about the turn out to their open mic event shortly aft er lockdown. Phillips said social distancing and mask wearing was maintained during the event at the time.

“People were still hungry to be together and to share their writing,” she said.

Host and co-organizer of Tongues in Common Selena Mendoza said that it is the people that attend the event that keep it going strong, going in and out of the pandemic. Mendoza said the support and comfort the event provides also keeps the event returning even after long breaks in between meetings.

“I think that feeding off of each other’s energy is what really keeps it alive,” she said.

Mendoza said while the event welcomes many art forms and it is unique to creative writing, the open mic nights focus on music. She said it offers a sense of community in an art form that can sometimes feel lonely.

“I think it’s important to have a space where you can share,” Mendoza said. “Even if you aren’t comfortable sharing, I think it’s important to see that others are out there around you doing that.”

Tongues and Common announces their dates through their social media, @tonguesincommon. According to their socials, the next event is Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. They are located at the Yoga in Common at 3062 Deville St., Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Sometimes, open mic nights pause due to lack of public interest and community is built through art in different ways. Branch librarian of Surfside Beach Public Library Kim Cantley said she had to put their library’s local open mic night on hold in November of 2022 because of low attendance.

Cantley said the open mic nights began in April 2022 with a poetry night event. She said the events became a regular, monthly event, occurring Thursday nights at 4 p.m. and opened up to different art forms such as singing.

Cantley said the library still hosts events promoting the local arts, including live music performances and tiny art canvas shows. She said the tiny art canvas painting supplies are provided by the library and showcases the works of community members who return their paintings. She said they were well-received by the community and will return for the summer.