Local businesses present an active open stage scene for aspiring musicians.

It is no secret that Athens is home to a vibrant music scene, occupied by skilled musicians. For amateur players, however, live performance opportunities can be rare.

The large interest in live music at Ohio University has prompted many businesses to host open-stage nights during the week, where musicians of any skill level can play on the same stage that professionals may play during the weekend.


While many of the events take place at bars, there is no age requirement to play on stage.

West End Cider House

For those looking to detach from the traditional bar scene and get home a bit earlier, the West End Cider House offers an early open stage.

“I have children and like to not be up until two in the morning,” Chris Monday, emcee for the past five months, said. “So I proposed to do an early (open stage) for people who don’t want to be out that late.”

The bar resembles more of a cafe than any other open-stage equipped tavern Uptown. The interior of the Cider House presents an environment curtailed more to acoustic acts, Monday said. It is organized in a way that cuts the sound and the room in two halves — the bar on one half and a lounge made of couches and a stage, which is only a corner with an old church pew, on the other half. Sets at the Cider House tend to run four or five songs, or about fifteen to twenty minutes, according to Monday.

Smiling Skull Saloon

For musicians not used to the limelight of being on stage, a night at the Smiling Skull Saloon could be ideal. The large, open room with a small platform stage is not the intimate, acoustic experience found at coffee shops. Most weekends, the bar hosts many rock and punk bands, which prompts many attendants to come with sets of similar intensity, Caleb Brown, emcee for the last two and a half years, said. Brown brings added energy to the stage, as he is also a regular performer.

“I started going to open stages back in high school,” Brown said. “And one of the reasons I love Athens is because there’s such a vibrant open stage scene. Pretty much every weekday there’s an open stage you can go to, if not two.”

Of all the open stages, The Skull provides performers the longest sets. The goal of Brown’s organization strategy for the lineup is to get everybody on stage and let them play however much or little they want, which is usually about twenty to thirty minutes, he said.

Casa Nueva

The largest stage available to performers in Athens is at Casa Nueva. The Mexican bar and restaurant features a prominent stage occupying an entire wall and a raised control panel adjacent the bar where a sound technician sits. That and a crowd of older, experienced musicians is what contributes to Casa being one of the most well-attended open stages, so it would be advised to arrive early unless a 1 a.m. slot is desirable, Chris Biester, an Athens resident who hosts the event, said.

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“We have the most consistent open stage that has been running the longest time,” Biester said. “So I think it’s just a reliability factor that made it balloon like this.”

Sets at Casa are largely subject to circumstance of the night, but everybody gets their own share of at least four or five songs for solo acts or group, Biester said.




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