TCA open mic offers students chance to showcase musical talents
Archie Carreon waited two hours to play only 10 minutes.
Wednesday, Jan. 8 was the first Walk-In Wednesday of the new year. While Carreon waited, he caught up with other musician friends also waiting for their set.
The junior sociology major would have had no problem waiting longer for his short set at the Tempe Center for the Arts Walk-in Wednesdays Open Mic Night. Walk-in Wednesdays have created a small niche community of songwriters and music-loving friends who bond in the middle of the week.
Alumnus Walt Richardson hosts the event and said creating that community was the goal when the the open mics started just five years ago.
“The premise behind it was to tie the Tempe Center for the Arts into the neighborhood,” Richardson said.
Located on Rio Salado Parkway and Mill Avenue, the TCA is nestled right up against the banks of Tempe Town Lake and is walking distance from the Tempe campus.
“Make it a facility that people can just walk in and use rather than just wait for shows and concerts and things like that," he said. "People walking by the lake could look and see something going on, and they could just sit down and listen to some music.”
When it was finally his turn, Carreon looked the definition of casual. He walked onto the stage in jeans, flip flops, a Star Wars T-shirt and leather jacket, plugged in his guitar and spoke in the microphone about how happy he was to be back.
Like any other musician that gets a spot at the open mic, Carreon had 10 minutes, which usually means he can play two songs. He got to use the stage, mic and PA system all provided by the TCA.
Carreon is an aspiring singer and songwriter. The open mic definitely caters to musicians like him to help them work through new songs. But he also believes it is a great venue for someone who just enjoys playing music and wants to have fun performing it.
“It offers a place for the budding musician,” Carreon said, “the 14-year-old who is playing four chords who wants to impress his girlfriend, to the retired musician who still wants to be able to play.”
Yet, Carreon is one of the only college students who performed. Most of the musicians were older songwriters from the surrounding Tempe neighborhoods.
Eager musicians started lining up as soon as 5 p.m. just to get one of the 24 coveted open mic spots. TCA management assistant Mary Fowler started taking down names at 5:45 and by 6:15 there was no more room on the list for performers.
Fowler said if college students want to play Walk-in Wednesdays, they need to get there early to sign up.
"I think a lot of the times the ASU students can't get here to sign up on time," Fowler said. "So we end up turning them away a lot. It's very good that we're maxed out to capacity. But at the same time being maxed out to capacity means that some people aren't going to get to play."
If any young college students are nervous about performing in front audience for the first time, Carreon said they should take a chance at Walk-in Wednesday.
“It’s always crazy the first time,” Carreon said. “You go from playing in your bedroom, to playing at your parties with your friends to just taking that leap of faith and just jumping both feet in and just going for it. You’d be surprised. If I was going to play anywhere for the first time, I would definitely want to be with a community like this.”
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