When most people think of a rock star, they think of an artist selling out an arena in 10 minutes. But in Aberdeen, it can mean simply captivating the audience who’s there for a drink and a meal.
Open Mic night on Tuesday night at Messy Jessy’s Bar and Grill — 212 S. I St. — is a good example. The weekly event starts at 6 p.m. and goes until about 9 p.m.
Chris Haley, who runs those nights at the venue, said to give him time and he’ll make the open mic nights even better. Well, this past Tuesday night was a good sign because there were several guitarists, bassists and singers who enjoyed themselves as they played and watched each other on stage. And the audience seemed just as captivated as they applauded each of the acts.
Paul Thayer, one of the newer acts, discussed what he likes about playing open mic nights.
“It’s the support, the lack of judgement that comes from the other people. Seriously,” Thayer said. “It’s a wide variety of people and all different types of music. And I’m kind of a beginner. It was a COVID thing that I picked up, was the guitar. So when I come to places like this, it’s good to get support from talented people like them who’ve got way more experience than me. I’m thankful for that for sure.”
This night was Thayer’s second time playing at Messy Jessy’s. It went better than his first foray.
“I’m glad you weren’t here last week, because I choked on a couple of my songs,” Thayer said. “I forgot the words. It was fine. But guess what, you forget the words and everybody’s still super supportive and everybody still cheers you on.”
Thayer likes how everybody gets a turn at the venue. Just have some skill because it’s not karaoke.
“Open mic is supposed to be 6 to 9, it’s gonna go late,” Thayer said. “And the more and more people find out about it, the longer it’s gonna go. And it’s a good opportunity for people to go. I hope it’s a good opportunity for (the bar) for a weeknight to make a little extra money by having all these people here. I’ll certainly come. Even if I don’t play, I’ll still come, buy a meal and buy a drink and watch everybody else.”
Brian Bachman and Kevin Case, from the band Deerswerver, played a rocking set. They had a good time as well. Bachman spoke about the opportunity the night allows.
“Open mic is fun because you get to meet a bunch of local musicians you wouldn’t normally run into in day-to-day life,” Bachman said. “Open mic’s a networking opportunity. I’ve been doing open mic nights around Grays Harbor for like 12, 13 years. In fact, that’s how I know most of the local musicians around this area, is through open mic nights. It’s cool.”
Case loves playing because there’s no pressure.
“I like to break out some of my originals sometimes on open mic,” Case said. “It’s just a nice, laid-back environment. It’s usually mostly other musicians in the audience, so it’s always very accepting and encouraging.”
It appears the word about the venue is spreading. Bachman shared what he likes specifically about Messy Jessy’s.
“This is our first time here, this is the first time even seeing this building,” Bachman said. “We came out because another musician who’s been here a handful of times kept on telling me about it, so I called Kevin up and I was like ‘let’s go hit that open mic.’ The thing is there’s not a lot of opportunity for live music unless people are making opportunities. So really, what we like about it is somebody’s doing it and so we want to come out and support.”
Case said he and Bachman usually play in Ocean Shores, but they’ve been wanting to come to Aberdeen and play. Case was glad to make the short trip east and play.
Colin Gage said open mic nights allow him a space to try something new.
“I think one of the great things about open mic is you can be kind of fearless in the songs that you pick,” Gage said. “It can be something you’re really comfortable with because you’ve played it a lot and it’s a song everybody hears on the radio, or maybe it’s something you have written that you just want to try out.”
Adding to Gage’s point about trying something new, the crowd got to see a unique combo.
Dave Morris, who played bass alongside Haley for the first act of the night, had never played with Haley before. He’s glad he did.
“Tonight was a whole different ballgame because I was playing Chris’ stuff and I don’t even know the names of them. I like the first song. I liked the last song. I liked the two in the middle, but you know, we had fun playing because it was musicians being musicians. Get up there and play. That’s your instrument. Get up there and play. Play the bass part. ‘Ok, fine.’ And that’s what I did.”
Gage is thankful for the sound quality at Messy Jessy’s. While a few musicians spoke about how the high ceilings play a role in helping the sound at the venue, Gage focused on the technical work that Haley and Jarod Peterson did with the in-house production equipment.
“The sound you get back on stage, the sound system is so nice and so robust,” Gage said. “It gives you this great feeling when you’re up there. It makes your performance that much better because you’re hearing this great product that they’re putting out from the soundboard and it’s coming back to you from the monitors. It makes it that much more fun.”
Gage likes the community vibe at the venue.
“You feel like you’re really a part of everything that’s going on,” Gage said. “I’ve been fortunate to meet a few different folks here. And just very quickly, you feel like you’re friends, you’re part of something that’s going on in the community and new faces keep showing up. You feel like you’re part of that.”
For John Prentice III, who performs regularly at the open mic nights at Messy Jessy’s, he loves entertaining the crowd with Johnny Cash songs. His favorite is “I’ve Been Everywhere.” His voice even sounds a bit like Cash when he sings it. He explained why that’s his favorite track.
“It’s the hardest and it gets the most reaction,” Prentice III said about the Cash classic. He played it again Tuesday night and the crowd enjoyed it immensely.
And then there is the staff who works hard to make sure drinks are replenished and meals are hot and ready to go. Mariah Matthews, who tended bar Tuesday night, said she likes working the open mic nights.
“All the local talent’s really cool, I’m finding out there are a lot of hidden gems in this town,” Matthews said. “You wouldn’t know it unless we had the open mic. And there aren’t a lot of places for people to experience that, or have an opportunity to get their music out there.”
Matthews “specifically asked” to work the open mic nights. She explained why.
“A lot of my friends are coming out of their shell and getting up there, like Ty (Wulf),” Matthews said. “I just met Ty through this and it turns out he’s friends with Zack (Hicks), so that’s really cool. And John Prentice, he’s like my little Johnny Cash so I’m all down for it. I’m always trying to promote as much as I can when I’m working. And trying to make everybody feel as comfortable to get up on stage is pretty much my main goal when I’m working, is to make everybody happy. Keep the good vibes going.”
Friday, Dec. 8
6 p.m. — Frolock, Just Barely, Of Lioness — The Loading Dock — 202 E. Wishkah St., in Aberdeen
7 p.m. — Comedy Night with Luke Severeid — Messy Jessy’s Bar and Grill — 212 S. I St., in Aberdeen
Saturday, Dec. 9
Noon — Susanna Green, Absolute Zero, The Good Grief — The Loading Dock
7:30 p.m. — Dukes of Swing — Montesano Moose Lodge 1210 — 3 Monte-Elma Rd., in Montesano
8 p.m. — Dusty Mojo — Gepetto’s Italian Restaurant and Sports Bar — 26 E. Pioneer Ave., in Montesano
8 p.m. — The Good Grief, Speedball Devils, Absolute Zero — Ashley’s Pub Haus — 710 J St., in Hoquiam
Sunday, Dec. 10
2 p.m. — Grays Harbor Civic Choir and Concert Band — Bishop Center for the Performing Arts — 1620 Edward P. Smith Dr., in Aberdeen