“Open mic is a fun place for everybody to have their moment to shine,” Jay said. “It is a community event where locals and travelers can share their creativity and their leisure time. I do my best to make everybody feel like the star during their part of the show and keep it fun and entertaining throughout.”
While the idea of shepherding musicians and artists may seem labor-intensive to some, Jay said it has its own rewards.
“As it turns out, I have met many of my best friends at my open-mic [nights] over the years,” he said. “That is more of a return on my time in investment than I ever could have hoped for.”
Jay is open to including all manner of talent in his open-mic nights, with a few exceptions.
“Interesting, fun, kind people are who I hope to attract,” Jay said. “People who want to have their moment in the sun, but also want to clap for and support everybody who came out to share their talents.”
“I try to steer clear of [comedians], although I make special exceptions occasionally,” Jay said. “As I’ve said a few times before, nothing kills my show [faster] than an unfunny comedian. It just brings the night to a standstill. I am fortunate enough to be funny — most of the time anyway — and the show is mainly about music. Funny songs are welcome. Unfunny talking for 10 minutes is not.”
As host, Jay often performs at his own show, though that is more based on necessity than a need to have his music heard.
“I do perform when it suits the show,” he said. “Sometimes, because of our early start time at 6 p.m., people trickle in after work. In some cases, I will play first to get the show off to a good start and fill the stagetime while the other performers arrive. The show picks up as it goes on and many performers prefer to play for the larger audiences found later in the show. I understand that, and accommodate those folks.”
Jay said up-and-coming performers are not the only ones to play at open-mic nights. Many established acts — from blues icon Robin Henkel to singer/songwriter Mary Dolan — have frequented his events to work out new material.
“Whether music is high quality or not is a matter of personal taste,” said Jay. “I feel everybody has something important to offer, onstage and in life. I enjoy the performances, especially those of our most unusual performers.”
He acknowledges not everything might appeal to everyone.
“It is possible there could be a performer that an audience member doesn’t like that much,” he said. “People perform for no more than 10 minutes. I would encourage those audience members to give everyone a try and if they don’t like someone, get a drink, take a breath, clap anyway, and get ready for whoever comes next.”
He cites Winston’s Beach Club as the best spot yet for hosting his events.
“Everyone who works there is a professional, and they empower me to do my job like I know how,” he said. “Plus, they have a first-rate stage and sound system. It is a delight week-in and week-out to work with experienced professionals. In the past, I have worked at some less-established places and the lack of amateurish nonsense at Winston’s is professionally thrilling.”
While there is little monetary recompense for organizing open-mic nights, Jay said it’s a privilege to watch performers grow.
“One of the most rewarding things about hosting open-mic night is watching everybody improve week after week,” he said. “I have seen friends go from barely able to play a cover song to writing and performing their own awesome original songs to huge ovations. To me, creating a space where things like that can happen is the appeal of hosting an open mic.”
• Jefferson Jay Open-Mic Night: 6 p.m. on Thursdays at Winston’s Beach Club, 1921 Bacon St. No cover. 21 and up. www.winstonsob.com