By Lisa Adams Walter
Most Sunday afternoons in downtown Napa near the Oxbow, live music can be heard rising from Feast it Forward—the hip, multi-faceted event venue, that is also a wine tasting destination and community gathering space on McKinstry Street.
Rather than a booked and scheduled rotating roster of artists and bands, the Sunday afternoon music meet-ups are Open Mic Napa Valley live performance sessions, often hosted by singer, musician and songwriter Patti Quinlisk.
Open mic and open jam sessions are a natural long-standing format for musical artists to collaborate and perform. Other open mic sessions across the globe include genres such as book readings, poetry, stand-up comedy, rapping and DJ spinning.
Local musical open mic performances are not new, and in recent years several regularly scheduled sessions have been taking place at venues such as wine tasting rooms, outdoor parking lots and the Napa Elks Lodge.
In mid 2018, Quinlisk remembers an ongoing Thursday night open mic ran primarily by Brian Couch, ending as the hosting venue had closed down. “These open mics had become more of a pro jam and didn’t consistently follow an open mic forum,” she added. Quinlisk came up with the idea to create her own open mic—one that would not become a pro jam, but one that would follow the guidelines of a true open mic. Performers would sign up and perform in that order.
To get started, Quinlisk reached out to Clark Harding of Napa Music Collective, a non-profit founded in 2015 to promote local music and provide a network and support for Napa County professional musicians. They understood that the need for more free concerts, music education and enrichment programs for adults and youth would benefit local citizens and visitors alike.
Harding connected Quinslik with Katie Hamilton Shaffer of Feast it Forward in the Oxbow District. These creative leaders, each an artist in their own right, brainstormed the possibilities. “The three of us sat down and collaborated,” Quinslik recalls, “How would this open mic look? Could it be done and could we pull it off?”
Feast it Forward, with a main building and showroom on McKinstry Street, now also includes The Studio, as well as The Yard, an outdoor event and entertainment venue—a fitting place for emerging musicians and songwriters. Open Mic Napa Valley was born there on March 7, 2019. “It was a huge success on opening night,” which was on a Thursday, Quinslik said.
Eventually the free sessions moved to Sunday afternoon with a 1:00 p.m. sign up time, followed by live music every Sunday (except the second Sunday of the month) from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Quinslik then took on full responsibility for either hosting or “hosting out” the meetups, with an idea that more hosts from a wider geographic area would expand the audience, which has worked. “We have had hosts from San Francisco, Benicia and other nearby regions, not just Napa.”
“Walking into Open Mic at Feast it Forward is kind of like walking into Cheers,” said Hamilton Shaffer, referencing the place where “everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came” on the hit sitcom of the same name. “It is a celebrated Sunday experience where somebody may not want to go perform on the big stage, but they get to be heard on our intimate stage. We have also had spoken word and comedy open mics. It gives us the opportunity to support people that want to create. There is no judgement, and there is an immense amount of talent. Plus, it’s just a fun place for people to relax and hang out.”
Recently the Open Mic Napa Valley Facebook page @openmicnapa was established, working collaboratively with The Napa MUSE to include content and information from artists, singers and songwriters—and provide a platform for musicians to submit their original music and share videos of their recent performances. “It has grown to a following of close to 500 people and it continues to grow every week,” Quinslik exclaimed. “Open Mic Napa Valley has grown so much that I had to ask three other musicians I met through the West Coast Songwriters to come in and help me host, so that we’d never be short a host on a Sunday.”
While the timeframes may evolve at Feast it Forward based upon longer daylight hours, Open Mic Napa Valley is right at home where they have landed. “Our tagline is ‘all things food, wine and philanthropy with a taste of music.’ Our site is a culturally-stimulating playground where people can create music and enjoy food, wine and art,” Hamilton Shaffer concluded.
Interest in Open Mic Napa Valley is continuing to evolve. Quinlisk continues to host the events as a service and gift for the artist and songwriter community. Meanwhile, as venues are opening up around the valley, she will be busy not only hosting others, but performing as a solo, duo and full band artist on her own. To hear Quinlisk’s music check out Poppy House Tarot on YouTube.
For more information send an email to email@example.com or call 707.286.9556.
1031 McKinstry St., Napa | Sundays 1:30PM - 4:30pm
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