One of the most promising open mic venues in the area, however, is one of the region‘s newest: Early this winter, The Hayloft outside Traverse City began hosting an acoustic open mic on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. that has attracted a wide range of solo players and group jams.
“It‘s been going really well -- we‘ve been thrilled with it,“ says veteran host Bill Dungjen. “We had a dozen guys up there picking bluegrass last week.“
Located about five miles west of Traverse City on M-72, The Hayloft has always been a destination for country/western music; but Dungjen‘s Thursday night show changes that dynamic, bringing a melange of blues, folk, bluegrass, old time string music and folk-rock players to the stage.
While Dungjen frequently plays bluegrass and western songs, he encourages diversity as a host and often gives newcomers an assist on guitar, bass or mandolin. “A good open mic has the spirit of ‘anything goes,‘“ he says. “If you‘ve got something to put out there, I‘ll amplify it.“
A resident of Cedar and an employee of Lakeshore Title in Benzie County, Dungjen,32, started playing guitar as a freshman in high school. Four years ago, he inherited the legendary acoustic open mic scene at the Cedar Tavern from Third Coast players Chris Skellenger and Pat Niemisto. That led to hosting another venue at Mackinaw Brewing in downtown TC.
Dungjen‘s present gig seems to be generating the most heat, however, and is beginning to gather an audience following as well as a flock of return musicians.
What makes a good open mic?
“I‘ve been to all of the open mics around the area and the thing I try to do with mine is avoiding that cliquey, in-crowd feel,“ he says. “I make sure that everyone feels welcome to play and encouraged to play.“
The result is often a group jam with half a dozen guitars on stage backing vocalists.
When he‘s not hosting the open mic, chances are you‘ll find Dungjen onstage with Susan Marie and the Cedar Valley Boys, a western band he shares with his wife Susan and brother Brian. The band‘s next performance is this Wednesday, St. Patricks Day, at Sleder‘s in TC at 5:30 p.m.