The 10 Best Dallas Open Mic Nights

Categories: Best Of

Eva Raggio
Buzzbrews gets classical with its open mic nights.
On their way to reaching professional status, musicians go through many stages of sex, drugs and open mic nights. The latter, among other things, empower the aspiring artist with the means to project confidence on stage while getting immediate feedback on their writing.

The famed Apollo Theater in Harlem was one of the first to host amateur nights, but the modern open mic night has its roots in the folk clubs of the early '60s, a scene that produced artists such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Performers today face a set of challenges that evaded a young Dylan, such as the ego-deflating experience of singing into the faces of an often less than attentive audience unable to keep their fidgeting fingers off their phones. Sure, there are other tempting and quicker avenues for exposure, like YouTube, but singing into your webcam won't prepare you to deal with the mega-stardom you're surely destined for like open mic night will.

This list is for spoiled Dallasites who won't venture beyond the city limits. Many neighboring cities such as Plano, Denton and Grapevine have alleged killer open mics, but for the sake of economy we'll settle on just Dallas.

Some quick tips on open mic etiquette: Most of them require you sign up an hour before, some allow covers, but all encourage original material. The standard is one song apiece on busy nights, and up to three if time allows it.

Courtesy Tavern on Main Street
10. The Tavern on Main Street
115 E. Main St., Richardson

The Heretics, who play at the bar five nights a week, are a band of outstanding musicians who play along with singer's covers and originals, and will be the saving grace of any performer. Host Jeff Hopson is a former preacher -- now a motivational speaker -- always great to have on hand for nerve-racking situations. He's also introduced as the Willie Nelson of Dallas, presumably for his talent.

There is a cozy patio, but smoking is allowed indoors. Sign up by 6 p.m., because the place gets packed. This is a vintage watering hole out of a postcard, a neighborhood bar if all your neighbors were cowboys, and the closest to Nashville you'll ever get.

Every Tuesday 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Courtesy Charlie's Sports Bar and Grill

9. Charlie's Sports Bar and Grill
1820 W. Mockingbird Lane

Although technically a blues jam, Charlie's merits a special mention. Even though The Goat hosts two of the best known jams in the city, Charlie's is by far the bluesiest of all the venues, a gritty dive full of character and mystery. Here you'll find an old drummer who appears to be held up by strings and is rumored to have played with Chuck Berry. Nobody cares to disprove this allegation because it adds to the ghost-filled mystique of the place.

Host Mark Newman is a giant of a player and this jam is for serious musicians with soul and a weary spirit. The passionate guitar-playing of regulars, such as The Free Man's blues jam host Jason Cloud, confirm that this event is for the more advanced players.

Every Wednesday 8 p.m. to midnight

Courtesy O'Riley's

8. O'Riley's
8989 Forest Lane #120

This charmingly grimy billiards bar offers a limited menu and cheap drinks. With a strong ambiance of informality and Southern pride, it's a challenge to find one person at O'Riley's without a tattoo. Country-rock singer Justin Pickard and indie rock musician Jes Spires set a full stage for aspiring rockers and attract an invested audience of benevolent bikers and friendly regulars. It's the perfect mix of country and hard rock.

Every Tuesday 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Location Info


Charlie's Sports Bar & Grill

1820 W. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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It's good to see Charlies has open mic night again. I used to play there, as well as other clubs in the area from Walnut Hill, to Harry Hines, and Denton Drive, on Sunday nights. There were many venues that featured open mic events, one of the most memorable being The Whistle Stop, on Denton Drive. It was a dive, but the greatest talent would always show up. You never knew who might me there on any given Sunday night. Rusty Weir, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Homer Henderson, and the list goes on and on. The Whistle Stop's owner, Jo Mac, was the unofficial "Mayor of Harry Hines". Jo Mac can usually be found at Charlies on Wednesday nights, as well as many of the other open mic nights in the area.

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