Sid Tate gave up playing music in bars and night clubs nearly three decades ago to raise his daughter. He took his performing and recording chops to Ebenezer Baptist Church, which he attends on Sundays.
His daughter is now in her twenties, and Tate decided to start up an open-mic night at the Cordial Lounge, a Lakewood neighborhood bar and grill that began its life as Eddie’s Cordial in 1965.
“I’ve been coming here for more than fifteen years,” Tate says. “We were just sitting around and talking and said, ‘Let’s try this.’ And I’m ready to do it again, and it’s taking off. … It’s been a beautiful thing, and it’s growing.”
The open mic has been under way for about two months now, and despite a holiday-season dip in attendance, it appears to be catching on. Even co-organizer Doug Delmonico, who has been coming to the Cordial since 1970, says about four or five performers have been showing up a week.
“We’ve not been packing the place, but people have been coming in and doing a song, and then they want to do another,” Delmonico says.
Organizers are setting their night apart from other open mics by bringing in a drum kit, bass and guitar that performers can use so they don’t have to haul their own gear around town. Some of the people hanging out at the bar will provide accompaniment if a performer asks for it.
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“If you need a bass, we have one here,” Tate says. “If you need drums, we have them here. I just purchased a keyboard. That way, if I have a keyboard player come in, they don’t need to lug their equipment around.”
Delmonico says organizers have also brought recording equipment to the Cordial so they can record performers who want a copy of their song. He says the practice reminds him of a bar he once went to in Memphis that videotaped musicians on stage — even full bands who only played one song.
He adds that Denver has a vibrant music scene, and the open mic is a good way for people to get heard when they are starting out.
“I think that's something special,” he says. “People who do open mics, some of them are really good and just want to see themselves do that. I think that gives someone an opportunity that isn’t in a high-pressure situation. You just come in and play, and you can take the recording.”
Tate adds that the open mic is a no-pressure environment and a good place for people who are just starting off in a live performance setting.
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“You really don’t have to be a professional,” he says. “If you just want to come in and give it a shot, there’s no holds barred. There’s no judgment. Just come in and play and relax. Enjoy yourself.”
Tate says that musicians from a variety of genres have been showing up, and he 's chatted with some comedians about also taking the stage.
“It’s not just for musicians,” he says. “I talked to several comedians. I was talking to one tonight in between sets. We'll take a break and put a comedian on and let them go. It’s a true variety show.”
Open-mic night at the Cordial Lounge, 1521 Pierce Street in Lakewood, happens every Tuesday at 6 p.m. Sign-up starts at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy drink specials and plenty of parking. The event is free, and so is the recording.