As winter closes in, many folks may find themselves holing up, staying indoors by the fire, getting nice and toasty — and bored. Well, how about going out for a laid-back evening of live music? But there are no concerts in town, you say, and since when do shows happen on weeknights?
Consider checking out an open mic night. With a variety of genres, instruments, ages, venues and musicians, Whitehorse boasts five open mic events on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays each week.
Musician Peggy Hanifan was early to recognize the beauty of open mic nights. She started the Whitewater Wednesday Jam 15 years ago this summer and it’s still going strong.
“[The open mic] is not only a fun and social event each week, it also brings people together for live music – an unusual thing these days,” Hanifan says. “It is also a great place for new performers to get their feet wet and many long-time, talented musicians come to play just for the love of music.”
During the past 15 years Hanifan and her partner Barry “Jack” Jenkins have seen many musicians get up on stage, some going on to become quite well-known.
“There are some folks who started at the jam; Kim Beggs, Gordie Tentrees and Anne Louse Genest, just to name a few,” Hanifan says. “Some people want to make music their life, with travel, CDs playing all over the world and some people just want to go out for an evening and sing for friends and family; it’s all good.
“Whitehorse has many amazing musicians here, so every Wednesday is different, we never know what or who to expect.”
The way Hanifan sees it, the opportunity to play music or to sit and listen is almost like a tonic to get through the winter.
“Summer sees many visitors, while winters tend to get long, so I feel it’s even more important to have a place to go to enjoy local music and perhaps sing a few tunes to burn away the winter blues,” she says.
Dave Haddock, who is currently facilitating another of Whitehorse’s most established open mics, the Gold Rush Jam, is equally supportive of new musicians and live music.
“I encourage anybody to get up, it’s just all about getting people who don’t necessarily have a chance to play, or want to get experience,” he says. “Sometimes people have never played in front of an audience before.”
The Gold Rush Jam is held at the Gold Pan Saloon every Thursday night, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and is structured like most open mics: performers may play three songs and get a free drink from the bar.
The Gold Rush Jam is mainly an acoustic jam, though Haddock usually brings an electric bass and provides back-up for whoever would like it.
“I think it’s a great way for people who maybe just need a little nudge to get playing,” he says. “It gives them experience on stage, keeps the blood moving and I think that helps.”
Haddock is also be running the Jazz Jam at Epic Pizza every second Tuesday from 7 to 10 p.m. New and experienced players are welcome and are encouraged to bring arrangements for songs they’d like to play. The next Epic Pizza Jazz Jam will be Nov. 27.
If jazz isn’t your cup of tea, then you may want to try out the more rock-oriented Ginger Jam held every Tuesday at the Boiler Room. A fully electric jam with a PA system, drum kit and guitars provided, the Ginger Jam usually runs from 9 p.m. to late night. It features a relatively free-form jam protocol and encourages the wearing of silly hats.
The Jamaoke with Ashley and Jackie takes place on Tuesdays around 8:30 p.m. at the Jarvis Street Saloon, with a range of music including rock and country.
In Porter Creek there is the Sergeant Bailey’s Open Mic Club, a jam for music of all kinds held at 9 p.m. on Thursdays at Bailey’s Pub in the Porter Creek Mall.
Finally, the United Church holds a monthly alcohol-free coffee house, with the next one being on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., and will feature the talents of local musician Art Johns as well as an open stage.
Even if you’re not a musician yourself, come on out and enjoy all of the talent and local musicians the open mic circuit has to offer.
Tuesdays: Ginger Jam at the Boiler Room at 9 p.m.; and the Jazz Jam at Epic Pizza every second Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Wednesdays: Whitewater Wednesday Jam at Epic Pizza starting at around 8 p.m.; Jamaoke with Ashley and Jackie at the Jarvis Street Saloon at 8:30 p.m.
Thursdays: Gold Rush Jam at the Gold Pan Saloon at 7:30; Sergeant Bailey’s Open Mic Club at Bailey’s Pub at 9 p.m.
Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics
Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.