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  • Writer's pictureLuke Ramer

My First Open Mic Experience

I had signed up for a poetry, open mic event, but then got scheduled for surgery that day, but then the surgery was delayed, so I figured I’d go to the open mic. Maybe it was a sign from the universe. Maybe I was meant to go. If for nothing else, just to get over my fear. It’s funny, I’ve livestreamed on Twitch for the past 3 years, I can sing karaoke without thinking twice…yet the thought of reading my poems in front of a small crowd terrified me.

My wife Wendy and I made a night out of it and drove up to the Sun Inn on Main Street in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—a quaint little city with many historical buildings and a lively cultural presence. The deep blue evening sky began fading into a beautiful fall night. We found the outdoor courtyard with grass and picnic tables and tea lights strung overhead and a soft acoustic guitar playing somewhere in the distance. The night was cool but comfortable.

We nibbled on some tasty crab cakes, but I couldn’t eat much. My stomach twisted in knots. The feeling reminded me of when I was filmmaking…every time before a shoot I would get nervous to the point of sickness. Well, I didn’t quite get sick this time, although the Long Island Iced Tea might have helped in that department. But I could still feel my heart racing in my chest.

I had to work up the nerve but finally signed my name on the open mic list. I signed up to be 6th, as late in the night as possible. I wanted to gauge how everything worked before it was my turn, to see the etiquette and how long each person performed.

The featured poets took the stage, which was actually a pretty nice little wooden stage with an overhead roof and solid sound system. Although, sometimes the poets had to contend with an odd number of helicopters overhead, random air conditioners kicking on in the distance, or loud exhaust pipes and bass from passing cars.

Neither of us had ever been to a poetry reading before, so we didn’t know what to expect. And seeing as the whole night was my idea, my “thing”, I was afraid it was going to bore her. But actually, we both enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not much different than live music…some of the poems/songs caught my attention and had me nodding along, and some had me low-key checking my phone to kill time.

The night went on and I ordered another Long Island Iced Tea, and inevitably my name was called. I remember walking up the wooded stairs of the stage and worrying that I was too tall for the mic and I wouldn’t know how to adjust it and I’d make a fool of myself. I tried to assure myself that “I got this” and maybe even said a little Please, God…

The mic height was fine, so I sighed in relief, and read. I think I did well. I think my voice volume, inflection, and enunciation were solid, which is important. It doesn’t matter how great the thing you have to say is if you don’t know how to say it. I got the usual applause. Nothing more, nothing less.

By the time I had gone on stage the crowd had thinned. All the headliners and their crews had left. But that’s fine. Now I know better—sign up for an earlier slot. I’ll learn from that mistake. That’s what the first time is all about, whether it’s open mics or anything else.

I always thought it would be awesome to be a rock star, a frontman for a band, performing on stage. But I have zero musical talent, so that’s just a fantasy. But that night I got to live a little bit of that fantasy by getting up on stage and reading some stuff I wrote…even if I was trembling and short of breath the entire time.

At the end of the night we paid our bill, thanked the host, Jon, and the bartender who made great Long Island Iced Teas and left. We blasted the music on the highway home and the chilled night air smelled like a win. The night hadn’t been something groundbreaking. Hadn’t been something that will go viral and make me an internet sensation. Simply another small step in a long journey toward success. I’ll take that.

We got home, put on an 80’s movie (The Great Outdoors), and I opened my laptop and got to work on my next poem.

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Priscilla Bettis
Priscilla Bettis
Oct 15, 2022

Congratulations on your first open mic, and a successful one!

Luke Ramer
Luke Ramer
Oct 16, 2022
Replying to

lol, fair enough. Just gotta get a really loud mic ;)

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