CULTURE

Brenda Carsey’s Open Mic Finds Passion at The Lost Knight

0 Comments 06 May 2016

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Spotlight on Brenda Carsey’s Weekly Musicians Open Mic at The Lost Knight pub in Echo Park.

By Chris Camargo

 

Generally the phrase “open mic” is met with a glazed over look or a quick text saying, “Sorry I can’t make it,” but this is Los Angeles and this open mic brings talent. Music tastes differ but these people are good. And they’re doing it for free. They have jobs and other shit to do in the morning and they play till midnight and stick around for the others who have not played yet because they are musicians and artists and good people. And since January this dug in spot called The Lost Knight in Echo Park has had a Tuesday night standing invitation to all musicians. It’s called the Weekly Musicians Open Mic and is organized by the prolific Brenda Carsey, who genre-spanning work has extended across seven albums, including solo projects and collaborations.

In fact, this piece is an admission of guilt. I was there, watching, listening to some amazing artists for free and it didn’t seem fair. I wasn’t pulling my weight in this relationship. I don’t play music. I probably am not qualified to write about music. But I am a writer. I know what it is like to sit in a room, alone, and work on something that often feels like it will never come. I can write about it.  I can help get the word out.

 

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Weekly Musicians Open Mic MC Brenda Carsey. Photo: Erik Jensen

The thing was the dedication that gets brought every week. A few weeks back Matthew Parada was walking home from a gig or something in Echo Park when the last vestige of Echo Park gangsters tried to steal his guitar. His struggle earned a black eye as a souvenir and yet the show rolled on. There is no reason for them to be so committed except that so many of them are incredibly talented – which doesn’t matter as much as it should – and they come here to play.

They deserve more but are happy to have gotten through their sets (Two songs or ten minutes. Get there early to sign up at 8pm for one of the twenty spots. The lineup is random, but you get a ten minute warning to tune your instrument.). There is no industry, no hype, no bullshit, no one trying to convince you of anything. You like only what you like and appreciate the rest for getting up there. The open mic is mostly guitar/folk music but all genres are welcome.

 

Brenda Carsey, “Cry Me A River”

“I don’t want to see anything…I just want people to be good and be mindful of everyone else,” says Carsey.  Cultivating a stress-free space takes precedence over genre or style, particularly when considering the more fresh-faced performers that come through the door.

When Carsey moved from Long Beach to LA, she found herself in situation familiar to any transplant. She didn’t know the scene, so instead she created one. She used her experience booking bands at The Lost Knight to pitch the idea of an open mic. Initially hesistant to commit, they convinced after she made a harder sell a year later.  The result was what frequent performer Lizz Vega calls “a cave for kindred spirits.” The Weekly Musician Open Mic was where Vega got her start, and she keeps coming back because, “all the people that pour their soul on that stage are igniting.”

 

Lizz Vega, “Jewelry Box”

Carsey’s  idea of community could be summed up in the one instance when someone walked in off the street after seeing the marquee and asked if he could play but didn’t have a guitar. Carsey lent him her’s. But the real watershed moment occurred was during the open mic’s second week, when a cover of “Royals” saw twenty-six artists harmonizing, a sign that something truly special was happening.

Each evening showcases a featured performer, handpicked by Carsey. “People do ask but there is a long list of people,” she says. Veteran attendees have seniority, but she also takes executive action to give artists she believes in a day in the sun.  And the decision should be her’s. In addition to  hosting a weekly open mic she works a day job, plays keyboard and sings in the new wave group Feral Kizzy, fronts her own band (Brenda Carsey and the Awe), plays shows around town, tours internationally, and runs a weekly open mic to give an opportunity to people play the music they love together.

Always together.

 

*Authors’ Note: To the beverage manager of The Lost Knight, please keep the Monkish Feminist beer on tap. It is amazing! I’m always heartbroken when it’s not there.

 

Support the Kickstarter for Brenda Carsey’s first full-length studio album HERE.

Brenda Carsey on her website.

Follow Brenda Carsey on Soundcloud.

Subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

Follow Brenda Carsey on Instagram.

 

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- who has written 6 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Chris Camargo is a writer living in Los Angeles. He was once a graduate student at CSULA studying Political Theory until leaving with one class unfinished and the comprehensive exam left wanting – the inevitable result of reading too much Nietzsche and Heidegger. He is a founding member of the anarchistic Back to Typewriting movement. His work has appeared in The Altar Collective and was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s New Writers Award in August 2014.

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