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The Depot Open Mic

Photos taken by Karly Maroney, unedited, at The Depot Open Mic Showcase Showdown on November 7th, 2023. Bands pictured: S.K.O.R. (Skeleton Kings of Red, showcase winner), 3AM Johnny, Brock Thompson, and Orchestrapark.


In an "unpretentious hangout" found on North Charles St, artists are welcome to perform at The Depot Open Mic. Most importantly, they are encouraged to take the stage to "connect with themselves," which will allow them to connect with the audience, as open-mic host, Bailey Straw, would express.


Artists from all backgrounds, paths, genres of music, and experience levels, perform at this spot in the heart of Baltimore. Whether you're a solo act or a full band, they provide the equipment needed to take the stage. Their back-of-line equipment includes drums, guitar and bass amps, microphones, and the audio engineer will do their best to make sure your set sounds good throughout the night. What makes this open mic stand out if the weekly audience voting for your favorite act, giving them a chance to compete in a future showcase.


My first time there was actually at a showcase competition. The winner would be offered to record a single, free of charge, from "The Watermelon Room." I met Bailey at The Watermelon Room's open house/jam session that Sunday before the showcase, which was perfect timing to catch the competition. It was a fun, unique experience and something I've never been to.


The showcase prizes can change, but you have a shot to compete just by performing at the open mic. Voting leading up to the showcase lasts for about 12 weeks, with the next one being held on February 6th, 2024. The open mics and showcase performances are always free, so if you're looking to get into performing, or want to record a song professionally, I would highly encourage you to go to the Open Mic and give it all you got. From a musician's perspective with little experience on-stage, I think it's a very welcoming environment filled with friendly faces. It's an unintimidating stage for you to overcome your fears of expressing yourself.


We had the opportunity to connect with Bailey Straw in an exclusive VASH Interview. This is not a paid ad, just an artist wanting to share this unique opportunity with you. Who knows, maybe you'll want to keep coming back after you make one visit, too. Be sure to bring a sticker of your band and add it to their collection!


 

INTERVIEW WITH KARLY MARONEY & BAILEY STRAW



Karly Maroney:


Hi, everyone. This is Karly with VASH zine. And today we are at The Depot here in Baltimore. We have the lovely opportunity to talk with Bailey. And Bailey, I'll let you introduce yourself.


Bailey Straw:


Hi, my name is Bailey Straw. I'm the host of The Depot Open Mic. I also go by Bailey Rhapsody as my stage performance name.


Karly Maroney:


So we met last Sunday and Bailey invited us out to a showcase they were having here at the depot. It was a lot of fun. So, Bailey, if you want to talk a little bit about that showcase and kind of what kick-started your role here at The Depot.


Bailey Straw:


So the showcase went well, but I guess my role here initially was basically a performer participant. I started coming here, the open mic kind of started as a jam, and then that evolved to an actual full fledged open mic with bands and performers. So I would come here and jam on bass guitar, and then eventually I came back and there weren't jams happening. So I started writing my own music and performing my originals here. And this was the first place where I actually performed any of my originals.


And the showcase itself, how that got started, I don't quite know. My roommate Eli used to host it, but as best as I can put it, the showcase started from wanting to promote local businesses, like The Watermelon Room where we met for that jam to promote that business, the recording studio, and then also Baltimore Music Company, still one of our sponsors, they were up and coming company that opened up selling music gear and stuff like that. And we wanted to give them a chance to spotlight their businesses, but also at the same time to offer prizes to the artists and offer them resources. So it's kind of a win-win situation. Eli, if you're seeing this and that is wrong, please let me know. But as far as I know, that seemed to be the way it came about and it could evolve in the future into something else, as right now, it's probably going to stay a similar model.


Karly Maroney:


So what really interested me was that we actually got to see that showcase performance, so everybody in the audience got to vote. And you did have a panel of judges. So I was wondering if you could just let us know a little bit more about what the judges would be looking for in future showcases. Why would somebody want to come here and perform?


Bailey Straw:


So the judges, from what I remember from the judges sheets, they're looking for stage presence, looking for originality. They're looking for crowd engagement is one thing, too. Proficiency of the instrument, I believe, was one of the things on there as well. And that's basically what they're looking for when it comes to any person who's performing in the showcase.


Karly Maroney:


What would they win? Or does that always change?


Bailey Straw:


So it does change currently. So we're offering recording time with The Watermelon Room. And the other prizes, second and third, are kind of always in limbo, depending on what our sponsorship looks like. Okay, so currently, the second-place winner got a swag bag from Baltimore Music company, and the other prize winner got a free show at the depot. So those are the prizes that we offer. Again, those could change. They kind of change from, I guess, as me and Garrett call it, season to season. But the recording time is something that's been consistent.


Karly Maroney:


So since you're a performer, I did want to ask you, what advice would you give to somebody that might not have ever performed before to open mic? Maybe they just started writing their own music. What advice would you give them to come out here? If they're local to Baltimore, why should they come out here to The Depot and give it what they got?


Bailey Straw:


So the first thing is that just getting up there is hard enough. So that's the first step. Someone who's been doing this for a long time, been performing since I was, like, 23. It's one of those things where you just got to get reps in and do it. There's really no way to get better at performing live than performing live. There's no substitute for it. It's nerve wracking every time, even though I've done it a bunch. And that's something that kind of is always going to be there. So just finding ways to deal with that in a healthy way. But the most important thing is that I tell a lot of people who are like, well, I don't know, I feel like I'm not original enough or they might have some. One type of insecurity or another is that you kind of want to make sure that you're doing it for yourself, and you want to make sure that when you're doing it, you're connecting with yourself, because that is kind of the gateway to the audience. If you can't connect with yourself and don't understand yourself, which takes time, and you still, as a person, you're constantly developing.


So that's a constant process. But connecting with yourself is a way of connecting with the audience, and it's probably the most important thing. And obviously, the usual things practicing, reading up on the different things that you could do better and different skills and just. There's a book by Victor Wooten and one of his biggest things is that as long as you don't quit, you're at least doing it, which is the most important thing, I feel like.


Karly Maroney:


I'll have to check out that book too.


Bailey Straw:


It's called the music lesson.


Karly Maroney:


So as someone who listens to a lot of artists every week, how would you describe the art scene in Baltimore?


Bailey Straw:


Well, I would describe the art scene in Baltimore as being extremely vast for a small city. They're various different pockets of creative people and various different communities. It's very interesting like, there's been moments in time where I've been In Baltimore a part of the art scene, and you think you're at the nerve center of the thing that's happening, when really there's like five six, God knows, how many other things also going on. So it's a very vast music scene with various different types of talent various different groups of people with their own things going on and I think that's really nice, really unique. And there's also crossover between the various different art scenes as well that does happen. Overall I would say it's a very welcoming vibe for sure. One thing I love about this place and the reason I started coming here and the reason I wanted to host it was because I feel like it caters to various different pockets of that scene. I feel like it covers a wide swath of people.


We can have you here if you're playing in just solo acts. We can support groups. We support artists who want to do stuff all through the phone or off their laptops with various different performances in that regard. Most, I guess you'd say, the R&B format but there's also been you know people who just like sing over tracks and stuff like that so yeah. I think the art scene is very vast and runs very deep if that makes sense. I heard people subscribe that Baltimore and various different neighborhoods runs very deep and I would say that the music scene also does as well.


Karly Maroney:


So in your own words why is an open-mic night important and why should people even want to come out?


Bailey Straw:


I think the open-mic night.. open-mics in general, regardless if it's The Depot or anywhere, are very important because they are the lifeblood of a music scene. There's really no other way to look at that. Other than having a mic, I mean you could have various great venues, you could have all these different great performers that you have from Baltimore City. But really, what builds a music scene is an open mic night and I know that for my own experiences. Maybe other people have opinions as to what is more important in music scene but to me the most important thing that: open mics.





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