Open mic night turns 100 Thursday

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

 

Jaxon Allen, left, and his brother, Weston, perform at one of the first open mic nights at the Rising Trout in April of 2008. This Thursday marks the 100th open mic night.

Photo courtesy of Dave Rummans

 

 

One hundred open mic nights.

That’s no easy task.

But Dave Rummans, a Lewistown native and singer/songwriter, has made it happen thanks to cooperation from the Rising Trout Cafe, Lola’s and a dedicated group of local musicians. This Thursday Lewistown’s open mic reaches centennial status.

In the fall of 2007, moving back to his hometown after spending several years in Portland, Oregon, Rummans was inspired to work harder to support the Lewistown music scene and bring this form of entertainment to town where people can gather to perform music, poetry or another talent. The events are free and open to all, focusing on the arts.

“I knew there were a bunch of people in town who wanted to play and didn’t have a place to play. I’d been to several open mics in Portland, and I knew they were a good place to play a couple songs, even if you aren’t a professional, so I thought I’d try to start one here and inspire people to get off their couches and play to a crowd.”

As far as a venue was concerned, former Rising Trout owner Leaf Argotti was happy to oblige.

“Leaf used to go to an open mic in Miles City quite a bit and we talked about the possibility of starting one here,” Rummans said. “She was happy to host. So, we figured, let’s give it a try.”

On the first Thursday of December in 2007, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., open mic in Lewistown was born. Rummans was the featured artist, and Brian Wicks, John Turner and Randy Berry also performed.

“It wasn’t a whole lot of people, but it was enough to play a night,” Rummans said.

Since that first open mic, Rummans has worked diligently to keep open mic going the first Thursday of every month, with the exception of a few summer months, as he is busy haying. Nevertheless, open mic has carried on, and many Lewistown musicians young and old have found it comforting.

“When we started out we had a lot of high school kids get involved, which was great,” Rummans said. “Matt Hassler, Garth Heser, Calista Singley, Adessa Campbell, the Allens and others really got into it. They’d tell their friends, and we’d have a crowd.”

One thing that is crucial to having a good open mic is having an attentive audience, Rummans said, and he feels fortunate to have that at the Rising Trout.

“People come to listen,” Rummans said. “It takes a lot of guts to get on stage, so it’s good people give them the respect they deserve.”

Whether it guitar and vocal, rap, fiddle and harp, stand-up comedy or reading an excerpt from an original novel, Rummans welcomes all kinds of talent to open mic night and encourages any and all to come out, whether a performer or not.

Infinity Thomson, who regularly performs with her sister, Quasar, at open mic, said she is very thankful for the opportunity to play and be a part of the music community in town.

“It’s a great venue and a welcoming atmosphere, and it’s so nice to have a place like the Rising Trout to play in town,” she said. “It’s an incentive to learn new songs (though I admit I haven’t been doing that much lately) and an opportunity to try them in front of an appreciative and kind audience. I think it is a big part of our local music community: a place to meet fellow musicians, get gigs, learn where other people are playing, and it’s also just fun to hear a variety of music.”

Local musician Steve Hughes agrees.

“It’s been a great venue for people that have a passion for the songwriting craft or music craft,” Hughes said. “From beginners to people who have been around for a long time. It’s a good down-home venue and it’s incredible Dave has done it for so long.”

It’s hard to believe this Thursday will be open mic number 100, Rummans said.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing, really,” he said.  “I never expected for it to run this long. I mean, we’re talking eight years, and it’s been great. The only time we haven’t had a nice crowd is when the weather’s been bad, and even then it’s still good. Six people are there and half of them are playing. Even when we temporarily switched to Lola’s we continued to have a good crowd.”

Argotti agrees.

“When I first opened the Rising Trout I knew I wanted music, but didn’t know many people in the community who were musical. That all changed when I met Dave and we went fishing together,” Argotti said. “It was a bit of a slow start, but when word of mouth got out I remember an open mic where people had to stand behind the counter because there was no room to stand elsewhere. That night I just remember looking at the crowd and the musicians and thinking that dreams do really come true.”

And the dream has continued, as current Rising Trout owners Brandon and Mariah O’Halloran are also supporters of open mic and will stay open late the first Thursday of every month as long as Rummmans continues to host.

Setting up, tearing down and managing acts can be a lot of work, Rummans said, but it’s worth it.

“It hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s always been a nice night where people can come and listen,” Rummans said. “I plan to keep it going. I don’t know about another 100, but who knows.”

Right now, Rummans said he’s just excited to celebrate the centennial.

“Come join us,” he said, “and, if you want to perform, sign up before 7 p.m.”

 

 

 

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