Cinema Bar’s open mic revival proves to be a hit

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Photo by Chris Mapili Singer, musician, songwriter Mary Beth Abella is seen here playing at the Cinema Bar.

When musicians Mary Beth Abella and Omar Mohsin were missing the live environment during the COVID lockdown, they decided to create a platform for people from all backgrounds to share their voice again. The Open Mic Revival at Cinema Bar was born, and it’s proving popular already. Abella chatted with the News about it all..

When did the open mic night start and why? There used to be a few notable and popular open mics on the Westside that ended with COVID. We’ve always enjoyed open mics, even though we’ve been performing for years. They’re really not just for beginners, though beginners are very welcome. It’s been a wonderful way to connect to different players (even find bandmates) and just keep your chops up in between shows. We saw an opportunity to create a music open mic at the Cinema Bar, our favorite local bar and venue, where both of us have performed quite a bit as well as spent a lot of time there listening to other bands. There is already a very welcoming community among a lot of artists who perform there, and the Cinema Bar is very supportive of local artists. We wanted to take advantage of that, expand the community, and have fun at the same time. Hence, the Open Mic Revival was born on June 1, 2022.

Are you a musician yourself? Yes, I’m a singer songwriter, with three albums out, and have been performing for years in different towns across the US. I’ve won songwriting awards (was a recipient of the Lionel Richie Songwriting Scholarship at UCLA Extension, was a finalist for the national Song of the Year Award, was named Top 10 artists of Denver before I moved to LA, etc) and have had my music used in TV and Film. I’ve also run many showcases, booked bands at different venues, and founded Colorado Women in Music in Denver. The goal I had then was to create and support women artists and I want to continue to do that and help up and coming artists of all backgrounds. I’m big on community and encouraging people in their musical goals, in particular people who aren’t regularly given an opportunity to perform or given a chance to be heard.

You run it with Omar Mohsin, correct? What’s his musical background? Yes, fellow musician and super talented performer, Omar Mohsin, is the co-creator of this special night. He’s been wearing many hats during the night—encouraging artists to sign up; running sound for 15 some different musical acts; lugging amps, cables, and extra instruments for those who haven’t brought any of their own, sitting in with other people to support their songs, and in general just bringing his love of music and people to create an atmosphere of belonging to all who attend. Omar was born in Cairo, Egypt and has resided in Culver City since the late ‘80s. He is a self-taught musician from a young age and was raised by Mohamed and Samia Mohsin who own King’s Kabob in Culver City. He is a national touring musician with a heart of creative curiosity that spans many genres. He feels that collaborating with Mary Beth Abella on the Open Mic Revival has opened many doors in regards to his craft and his investment in the musical realm. He feels that when given the opportunity, it’s an obligation of every creative type to provide a platform, like the open mic, to help the artistic community.

What sort of music does the evening generally offer? There’s been a great variety of musical styles. Every night is different, depending on who shows up to play. We’ve had pop punk, alt country, Mexican folk songs, Hawaiian-style ukulele playing, hip hop, neo soul, blues, folk, singer songwriter—lots of variety. There are many talented artists of all generations and levels of experience from beginner to quite seasoned artists. I think that’s pretty consistent in large cities where you have a lot of incredibly talented people moving here to get started in the music industry. You never know what you’re going to hear. I remember members of Coldplay showing up at an open mic a friend was running in Denver, for example. We usually also have a featured artist, who is more established, come do a longer set at the Open Mic Revival. We also have people who just come to listen and get to hear some pretty amazing undiscovered artists that show up and blow us all away. Regardless of how “good” people are, the audience is really fantastic and positive. We laugh, we drink, we clap during songs, we sing along. It’s been a blast so far. The Cinema Bar has provided us with a great platform for this local community event.

What is the standard? Are beginners welcome? Everyone is welcome. I want to especially encourage women and young people (21+) of all musical styles and levels to come play, who tend to be more unwilling to put themselves out there. The reason we are doing an open mic and not a jam session with all the talented artists we know, is that young women and less established players are less likely to join in on these sessions. The music industry in general is quite intimidating. Everyone involved in the Open Mic Revival is welcoming and open to everyone, regardless of generation, gender, or background, of all styles and levels. This is probably the most supportive audience you could possibly find and you’ll find artists of all kinds who represent the great diversity of this city.

Were you able to keep interest going during the pandemic lockdown? We’re just getting started. We’ve done 6 open mics so far. People are encouraged to do whatever makes them comfortable right now, including wearing masks. The doors are also kept open during the night. I think people feel comfortable right now and hope that continues. What sort of crowd do you get at the Cinema Bar? We get an amazing and supportive crowd, both players and audience. We’ve really got a vibe going and we’re all really feeling the community. We already have Open Mic Revival regulars showing up every time to play or to listen and to support. It’s really encouraging, and most of all, fun!

What do you have planned for the evening for the rest of 2022? So far we are scheduled to host the Open Mic Revival at the Cinema Bar every Sunday in July (July 3, 10, 17, and 24), except for the very last Sunday in July (July 31). Depending on the interest, we may be able to keep it going. If people continue to show up, we’ll know there’s a demand for this type of event. It’s been a real labor of love for us. We have to see how viable it is. We hope the readers of the Culver City News can help us build that buzz and keep it going! To support us, follow us at @openmic_revival on instagram and on our Open Mic Revival Facebook page, and most of all, come out and check it out for yourself! The Open Mic Revival takes place at 8 p.m. every Sunday at the Cinema Bar. Visit thecinemabar.com for more info.

Courtesy photo Joel Settles is a regular at the open mic and is playing electric guitar on the Cinema Bar stage.
Cinema Bar’s open mic revival proves to be a hit