Gaslight’s Open Mic Night is a hitOctober 19, 2010
By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer
HUNTINGBURG — Flo Gonya of French Lick joined the jam band on the stage at The Gaslight on Thursday night to sing a few songs. Drummer Jon Neukam had seen her in the audience and waved her forward.
After adjusting her microphone, she proceeded to harmonize with her son Josh on their rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.” She sang Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’,” as she pointed to a young man in the audience, telling him, “That’s you.” She shimmied to Chuck Berry’s “Rock & Roll Music” and got the audience to clap and snap to Eddie Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night,” as she sang in two-part harmony with Josh.
The jam band — pieced together with musicians who were at The Gaslight that night — was a hit with the crowd.
That’s the point of Thursday night’s Open Mic Night.
“You never know who’s going to show up,” said Neukam of Jasper. “It’s a roll of the dice.”
Neukam and friend Zack Gonya, both musicians, started Open Mic Night about six months ago. The free event gives artists a chance to perform in front of an audience.
“We’re trying to stir up the music scene,” Gonya said. “It seems like people don’t go out to see live bands as much as they used to. If we can get people to come out to this, they can hear some good music, and maybe it will encourage them to go see the musicians perform at other gigs.”
Other performers are also encouraged. “If you do poetry, you’re welcome,” Neukam said. “If you want to juggle, come on up. If a guy came in and said, ‘I play the kazoo and I’m awesome,’ I’ll be like, ‘OK, you’re on in 10 minutes.’ It’s no holds barred.”
The majority of the performances have been of music. Those who want to perform can tell Neukam or Gonya when they arrive and they’ll be given a slot of time.
“We’ve had some come and play on stage alone,” Neukam said. “There’s a trumpet player that comes by sometimes. One time a choir came in. They sang gospel songs, seven-piece harmony. It was beautiful.”
Music is kept clean. “Families come in here,” Gonya said. “People under 21 can come in and play or listen to music.”
Youngsters can’t sit in a marked-off section of seating where alcohol is allowed, but there are many tables outside of that section for them to sit.
Participation is building, Neukam said. “At first it was just Zack and me on the stage and like one or two people in the audience,” he said. “Now others come and jam too.”
Another group of musicians who don’t normally perform together gathered on The Gaslight stage. Huntingburg musicians David Wayne and Terry “TK” Kendall strummed their guitars and Ferdinand resident Randy Sturgeon joined in with his harmonica. The trio shared vocals while Gonya added guitar riffs and Neukam backed them up on the drums.
This combo entertained the crowd with several songs, including Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be with You,” to the audience’s delight. The combo also played original songs, as did Gonya and Neukam.
“I played here years and years ago,” Kendall said, as he listened to Gonya and Neukam perform. “I do some performances around, and I come to this. But I have to be home before 10 (p.m.) to put my 9-year-old to bed. I just love to play.”
Keyboardist Kenny Gonya, who performed with his wife, Flo, and son Josh (Zack is also his son) earlier, said Open Mic Night gives musicians a chance to perform, try out new songs and play with musicians they normally wouldn’t share the stage with.
“We play at other places,” he said of himself and his wife. “But if you don’t get to play often, you’ll be tempted to put your instrument in the closet. When something like this opens up, it encourages musicians to pull out that instrument.
“It’s no pressure. Just come out and have fun.”
That’s what Zack Gonya and Neukam hope more people will do.
“Come in and get your 10 minutes to do pretty much what you want,” Neukam said.
Open Mic Night starts at 7 p.m. every Thursday at The Gaslight, 328 E. Fourth St. For information, call 683-3669.
Contact Candy Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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