The first rain of spring was spitting on the sidewalk and my hair as I entered Brown Dog Bootleg Café last Wednesday night. As I walked in the door I couldn’t help but notice how the raindrops softly struck the windowpane, rhythmically accompanying the soulful acoustic guitar in the most serendipitous way. The alluring aroma of apple fritters and earthy espresso sparked my drowsy senses after a long day of end of semester procrastination.

Every Wednesday the Brown Dog hosts an open mic night, giving students and locals a creative outlet and an escape from the daily grind. Peppered with the ambient glow of yellow light, the venue is truly a marvel and a comfort making it the perfect place to study.

Matcha latte in hand, I surrendered to the sensory indulgence of a haunting and raspy rendition of Toxic by Britney Spears performed by 18-year-old Chandler Berardi. Berardi is a regular performer at the Brown Dog and was one of the original accomplices for the open mic idea. After hearing about the music interests of manager Lee Hiscock through a friend, Berardi teamed up with him to bring open mic night at the Brown Dog to life.

“I originally got in here on Saturday nights doing live music, then Lee brought the idea to me. So I said, how about this: I will let you use my gear if you let me host. It just worked, we clicked and it grew from there,” explained Berardi, “We have our slow nights, but one night we even had 17 performers. We always have somebody new.”

Veteran Brown Dog performer and Laurier student, Keyena Smith uses open mic night as a creative outlet despite a hectic school schedule. As fourth year Concurrent Education student, she’s been performing with friends since last summer and reigniting her love of music from high school.

“I’m just all about the atmosphere,” said Smith. “It’s hard to find cute little hipster places around campus. I feel like its one of Brantford’s best-kept secrets and it’s nice to be able to get together with some friends and just jam.”

Manager Lee Hiscock can attest to the influence the atmosphere has on the artists. He explained how the acoustics that the open concept fosters truly keeps both listeners and musicians coming back for more. He also explained that open mic night is unique to the Brown Dog in Brantford, but other locations are hoping to catch on.

“We’ve always wanted a place that had live music, there is a lot of live music in Brantford, but there’s not a lot of live music in an open space like this,” said Hiscock, describing how open night mic welcomes performers of all ages and musical disciplines.

At the end of the night it was apparent that such a raw and intimate atmosphere is rare, and we often forget the musical love affair we used to indulge in throughout our teens. Why not reacquaint yourself with a memory or two? The Brown Dog uses open mic night in a way that creates the perfect study atmosphere, and the perfect chance to perform, ultimately cultivating the innermost musical artist we all suppress during the school year.

Along with open mic Wednesdays, the Brown Dog also features live music on Saturday nights. If you are interested in performing stop by the café on 53 Dalhousie or, better yet, sacrifice one night for the sake of your senses and listen to the sounds of Brantford’s best kept secret.

 

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