Pink Slip Open Mic sets the stage for new local talent

Pink Slip Open Mic is a weekly event in downtown Phoenix that gives any aspiring musician, poet or stand-up comedian a chance to perform in front of a live audience. The event is held every Monday night in the backyard venue at Lawn Gnome Publishing, a bookstore and independent publishing house located in the Roosevelt Row district across the street from The Lost Leaf and Jobot Coffee.

Since it started operating downtown in 2012, Lawn Gnome has been known for giving opportunities to local, up-and-coming writers and artists. It is with this same mentality that the bookstore offers the stage to anyone who wants it.

The event is currently hosted by Scott Mitting of local Christ-themed gangsta rap outfit 20 Ft Neon Jesus, a position he took over from local folk-punk rocker Andy Warpigs.

Mitting said open mic nights are often a crucial springboard for artists to get out of merely practicing for friends and actually perform on-stage for a crowd of strangers.

“It’s surprising how different it is,” he said. “As soon as you step on the stage, the lights are on you, and you look out onto the crowd and you see darkness. Even your friends who are there to support you, you can’t see them because it’s dark out here. Overcoming that is a big step.”

Mitting said Lawn Gnome is the place for budding artists to hone their stage presence and skills, and cope with the anxiety and mishaps that often accompany a first-time performance.

“This is the kind of place where you learn how to master those little imperfections that we like in live music and turn it into something positive,” he said.

The stage is located in the backyard of Lawn Gnome's renovated 1930s bungalow. The audience watches performance from dimly-lit wooden bleachers. The stage itself is only lit by a line of string lights, with a backdrop of the downtown Phoenix skyline.

Although all sorts of personalities have graced Lawn Gnome’s backyard stage, during Pink Slip Open Mic, every artist is equal. Signup is available to any and all, and each participant is allowed five minutes to showcase his or her talent, whether it be music, stand-up comedy, poetry or something else altogether.

When the five minutes are up, the lights are briefly dimmed to indicate the end of that performer’s set, although usually they’re allowed to finish out their act.

With Lawn Gnome’s relatively central location within the Roosevelt Row arts district, Pink Slip has become one of the more visible open mic nights downtown. 

Musician Darren Korvis said he came down to Pink Slip night on August 22 to generate interest for his first album.

“It’s a good atmosphere,” he said. “It’s cool that it’s right here in the arts district, and it’s full of people who appreciate the arts.”

Musician Savannah Lutman said she played twice at Lawn Gnome and hopes to continue to do so, as the venue as well as Pink Slip has become an important part of the local music scene.

“(I love) that everybody loves art and music and that we’re all big community,” she said.

The next Pink Slip Open Mic Night will be at 8 p.m. on Monday, August 29. Admittance is $1 and is open to all ages.

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