So full disclosure: the West End Pub has been a secret haunt of mine for about a year. Tucked away onto a corner down Emerson Street near McMaster, they have a decent selection of beers, great pub food, a lovely little patio, and friendly staff. So when I found out there was an open mic there on Sunday nights, it felt like a bit of a homecoming!
I got there at 9:30 and I was quite early (luckily so was my friend Jack...!). Turns out this one really does start closer to 10pm.
Hosts Kim and Frank Koren, stalwart luminaries of the Hamilton scene, started with a polished set of originals and covers, and then opened it to the floor, first-come-first-serve. This should of course have meant I went first, but I deferred (evilly) to Jack, knowing he can hold his own as a fairly accomplished guitarist. Another performer and I sat through his set, drinking our free pints (yup! yay West End!) and anticipating our own sets. The sound system the Korens bring in includes two stand-mounted speakers, a proper mixer, a couple vocal mics, and even a music stand (on request), so it was a balanced musical sound overall.
I was second, and by that point the crowd that had arrived was already a solid split of regulars (acting, naturally, like mouthy regulars...) and performers. My zeal for a music stand left enough of a gap for the smokers (apparently 2/3 of the audience) to imagine they'd have time for a couple drags, so I ended up playing a subdued set (all except for the last song, which turned suddenly into a comedy act when I sang "farts" instead of "hearts") to a pretty empty bar, but it was nonetheless a nonjudgemental (and I say that with new authority) and supportive audience, with an age mix of early 20s to likely mid-50s.
The other acts were clearly musical people, though perhaps, like me, still not quite as seasoned as the Korens, so it was a good place to work out the kinks in new or in-progress material for sure. I'll be back every couple of weeks I hope!
PS: they have a music stand!