by Phil Kimball
Pamela Stollings, the owner of the Unurban Cafe, has been hosting her open mic for 23 years this September. She has received prestigious awards, trophies, and universal accolades from everyone in this community, and outlying communities. No one shines with more love and generosity than Pamela, who usually starts the ball rolling with a phrase like “ Get your wah wah pedal in gear and be ready when your name is called.”
The Unurban open mic is held every Friday. starting with sign up at 7:00 PM, and first song scheduled for 7:30 PM. There is a five dollar charge, and each participant is allowed two songs, or ten minutes on stage, whichever comes first. The back room stage offers a brand new PA, engineered by a very helpful guy named Paul Kennard. Microphones and boom stands are provided, with multi inputs for standard guitar plug in jacks. The sound can be adjusted by Mr. Kennard to provide desired levels of volume, bass, treble, and reverb. A spotlight shines from an overhead light fixture, which can be adjusted by a dimmer switch to desired levels of brightness.
The evening can draw anywhere from thirty to fifty participants on any given night. Each person places their named receipt in a bucket, which will be chosen at random by the leader of open mic (usually Pamela). If there a large number of late arriving performers, a second bucket is created to accomodate them. By doing the selection this way, no one should wait over two hours to get their name called. Many times, participants are called to perform in a relatively short amount of time, avoiding the prospect of wait time.
Late arrivals will simply be called to perform, after the first bucket is completed. The evening usually concludes around 10:00 PM, but some busy nights have continued until 11:00 PM or later. If there is time after the last performance, a free for all hootenany sometimes assembles on stage, where everyone is asked to bring their instrument, and join sharing songs and harmonies. There is a round robin song selection, giving everyone a chance to contribute a favorite song.
The audience is always attentive and courteous to each performer, and talking is encouraged away from the staging area, to focus attention on the performance. The general atmosphere is very supportive to anyone who engages in the open mic, and each performer is greeted with a steady round of applause following the completion of their set.
This open mic originally began in the front room, and eventually moved to the back room for more privacy and space. A steady stream of performers have graced the event, including some well known local and national performers. What a perfect place to wind down after a busy work week! The Unurban Coffee House is certainly one of the most popular open mic locations on the west side of LA. Parking is readily available after 6:00 PM in the US Bank parking lot across the street. There are excellent choices of food and beverage on the menu for those seeking refreshments.
Here are some quotes from some of the most frequent performers at the Unurban:
Mike Simpson : “An eclectic plethora of artistry and Danish coffee Friday nights”
David Gaulkin aka David Tops : “Community spirit allows open minded musicians who can perform without judgement, and always supportive.”
Milton Dee : – “Great community support, always feel at home, where you can be yourself. And the chicks are great !”
Chris Nash : “Fun and eclectic”
Jenny Zepp : “A vortex of creative inspiration, all existing on various planes, serving as inspiration, assisting in networking artists of the soul-this-is-the-place-this-is-the-time- Unurban Cafe”
Geno Loia – “Real as it gets and better than good ! This is the place to get the best entertainment, raw talent, as good as it gets (and deserves more recognition)
Cella Mousso (Chris) – “There is no in crowd. It is egalitarian here, where everyone gets respect and love, with no bullshit games.”
Kate Isenberg – “I was looking for a good open mic, that was unique, open to diversity, all styles and perspectives, and a place that would view everyone with equal importance, from the advanced players to the beginners. I was looking for a place that would accept oxygen tanks on stage. I was looking for a place that would unite us, drive us to express personal ways of communication. I was looking for a place where everyone’s story is equal. I found it at the Unurban Coffee House”
Pepe – “This place makes me feel peppy. Great sharing of love, refreshing live music, high energy performances, really different and eclectic.”
Mike Talega – “The comraderie keeps me coming back. So much gratitude from the first time here, fantastic support. I could write a book.”
Kevin Gleason – “One of the last few place like this, not slick or commercial”
Kevin McCluskey – “Friday night at the Unurban is a caffeinated sanctuary where modern day songsters play to a diverse and supportive crowd.
Peter Goverts – “This place offers great performers and wonderful friends, who care about each other.”
David Barker : “Thank you to everyone for making this a wonderful place.”
Larry Jonas – “It’s nice after 30 years to have some place to come and play.”
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