Open Mic: A Revival in Santiago

The Open Mic. A common enough sight in cities throughout the United States or Europe, where amateurs and professionals alike perform in a relaxed atmosphere for a night of entertainment. But where are the Open Mics in Santiago?

 A performer at July's Open Mic. Photo by Isabel March
A performer at July's Open Mic. Photo by Isabel March

So we asked Claudio Salas, a music teacher and native santiaguino, after he returned to the city this December. Fresh off a five-year stay in Sheffield, England, Salas had grown accustomed to the almost nightly ritual of the Open Mic, set in bars and restaurants across the English city, and had performed at many of these events himself.

“There was a beautiful atmosphere,” he reflects. Salas had never seen an Open Mic until he came to Sheffield, and was determined to bring the concept back to Santiago. “It’s my contribution to this city,” he says.

Claudio Salas. Photo by Isabel March.
Claudio Salas. Photo by Isabel March.

Historically, Santiago has seen events similar to the Open Mic before. In the 1960s, gatherings called peñas showcased musicians, poets, and speakers. The content of the events often focused on political and social issues, and were heavily associated with the left.

The coup of 1973 brought public peñas to an abrupt halt, and they became underground gatherings organized by the resistance. While they have returned in some degree to the Santiago culture, the true open mic—a free, completely open and non-affiliated get together of friends and artists—is a rare find in the city.

Luckily, Salas has taken it upon himself to bring this concept back to Santiago in what he calls "the rebirth of the Open Mic." They are scheduled to occur the first Friday of every month at the Revolution Restobar, one of the few establishments Salas was able to find in the city open to the idea of hosting these free informal performances.

Small but lively, the events generally bring in about thirty people, with performances organized on a first-come-first-serve basis. The atmosphere is fun and welcoming—Salas often jokes with the audience and performers when he introduces acts, and songs are sung in both Spanish and English (the Beatles seem to be a popular choice).

“Santiago is full of musicians,” Salas says, citing the abundance of street musicians in the city. “This is a space for people who want to show their music.” In addition, Salas hopes to create a friendly environment for both music and socializing. “I want to have a space to play music with my friends,” he explains.

 Revolution Restobar hosts the monthly Open Mics.
Revolution Restobar hosts the monthly Open Mics.

While his Open Mic is the only one Salas knows of in the city, he expects the practice to grow in popularity, and hopes to one day see many open mics in Santiago. If he had the time, Salas says, he would expand the open mic, but for now he balances it with work and his most recent project, a coming-of-age novel he is writing loosely based on his own experiences playing in a band.

For now, however, Salas is content with his Open Mic, as are the friends and musicians who keep coming back. “There is no limit or boundary on style or quality,” Salas says. “I’m just happy to have a night full of people enjoying the music.”

Events occur the first Friday of every month at Revolution Restobar (Irarrázaval 4955, Ñuñoa, metro: Plaza Egaña).

Regular updates with time, location, and schedule can be found on the event’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011182865962&fref=ts.

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