San Diego Open Mic Review: Lestat’s

Letstat's, on Adams, in Normal Heights, San Diego.There are two Lestat’s Coffeehouses in San Diego.

One is close to the University Heights sign that spans Park Boulevard. The other is on Adams Avenue, and is right under the Normal Heights sign.

The latter location is where San Diego’s most well-known open mic is held on Monday nights. It’s always getting great reviews in the local publications, and on Yelp.

How It Works

Park somewhere in the neighborhood, or walk. If you’re not worried about it, leave your instrument(s) in your car at first. I’ll tell you why in a second.

The Lestat’s on Adams is made up of several connected buildings. The first two big rooms are a coffee shop, and sitting on the sugar & creamer table is a sign-up canister for open mic. Write your name on a piece of paper, and drop it in. Do this only once, as this open mic uses a lottery to fill spots (it’s popular).

At 6:30p, make sure you’re in the next building over when they draw names. Now you’re in “Lestat’s West.” It is a legitimate venue. There are old theater seats, folding chairs and wooden stools all facing the stage. There is proper sound and lighting, and music is punctuated by fellow musicians greeting and laughing with one another. There aren’t any televisions, which is awesome. Oh, and there’s even a sound guy with an amazing mohawk. I didn’t catch his name, but I can pick him out of a crowd.

The night is hosted by Chad Taggart. Chad is a handsome guy that usually wears a hat. He has a kind demeanor, and deadpan delivery. A guitarist & singer primarily, he carried in some oddly shaped, wooden lap guitar along with his more standard acoustic.

Getting Picked & Playing

If your name is drawn, you’re allowed two songs or ten minutes (comics or poets get five minutes), so pick the time you want between 7:00pm and 11:00pm. Obviously, the further into the drawing you’re name is called, the less spots you get to choose from.

I’m married. I like playing early. So, when my name was called, I picked 7:20pm. People before me picked 10:30pm. It’s personal preference and luck of the draw.

This is why I told you to leave your instruments in your car. Someone is going to be playing the 10:50pm slot. Maybe you. Probably not. But know that this is FOUR HOURS after your name is called. If you left your axe in your car, you can more easily go get something to eat at a nearby restaurant, grab a coffee next door, or sit and listen without worrying about your guitar being in the way.

No matter what you do, make sure you’re back in the room, tuned up, 20 minutes before your spot. Things can be ahead of schedule, and if you aren’t around, there are three alternates ready to go.

The Crowd

Lestat’s is a collection of the faces you see at all the other San Diego open mics. Psycho Lizard, Happy Ron, Chris Carpenter, Craig of Suede and more. There’s camaraderie and respect that’s shown, and when you’re playing, the audience is attentive and receptive.

When I got up to play, I had just finished tuning my guitar outside in the cold. Bad decision. While it didn’t sound horrible, I could tell some strings were sharp, and that’s annoying.

It was a lot of fun; quick, but a crowd and sound like you’re playing a real show and not just an open mic. I played my newest song, “Make Up Your Mind”, followed by “Gone“…the most popular iTunes song off my band’s last album.

Recommendation

Go play Lestat’s. You’ll meet a big part of the San Diego songwriting community. Their atmosphere is killer, and the crowd is there to listen. Wow them.

Also, maybe I missed an extra sign-up jar or canister, but Lestat’s should put one in the venue side, too. When I first got there, all three of the other first timers had no idea they needed to drop their name in a lottery jar next door. Maybe an instruction sheet somewhere? Whatevs. Don’t sweat it.

 

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