Manic Mic 

Open Bar: Manic Mic Night plays by its own rules.

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Not since the long-dead Dead Goat Saloon turned into a “sexy good time” has there been an open-mic night in a venue that so perfectly mingles creative juices and wonderful booze. Johnny’s on Second’s Manic Mic Night, hosted by local musician and songwriter Trenton Thornley, is a welcome change of pace from typical coffee-shop jams, which often function as more of a backdrop for customer conversations.

Manic Mic fosters a unique atmosphere, blurring the line between audience and performer. The interactive nature of each event feels less like a show and more of a community gathering giving emerging artists a chance to break into the Salt Lake City music scene, as well as offering seasoned musicians a place to try out their new creations in a public space.

Plus, while many prominent music venues around town cater to fairly specific crowds and musical genres—from indie rock to metal and hip-hop isolated in specific stomping grounds—Johnny’s clears the air with Manic Mic by embracing all walks of life and sounds.

Local bluesman/Manic Mic regular Sam Smith is stoked to see a downtown venue offer a space that’s “all about throwing the creative process out there to see who will latch on to it.”

The actual open mic segment of the evening is 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., followed by a featured band or soloist. In the coming weeks, headliners Melissa Kelly, Slim Chance and A Kin Folk Band will steal the spotlight. Last month, Thornley decided to switch things up and asked Levi Rounds to close the evening with his intense comedy that pushes limits and challenges the audience.

On most nights, one can’t expect to see raw or perfected talent in every individual who takes the stage, but with the group of regulars who show up to perform, it’s sure to be a solid night of diverse styles of music. No matter the genre of music, whether bluegrass, country, jazz, alternative, soul or straight-up blues, anyone who can play an instrument or hold a tune of is welcome to perform. Getting onstage entails an informal process of signing up when you show up.

Thornley kicks off each night with guitar in hand. A soul musician of sorts, his voice changes pitch with beauty and ease, haunted by longing and at times a bit of sadness.

“I used to despise love songs and their whining, until I became a heartbroken whiny bastard myself,” he says, when asked about his more wistful tunes. “Obviously, not everything I write is a tormented love song, but I have found that when I draw on moments of hardship, my best work emerges.”

MANIC MIC
Johnny’s On Second
165 E. 200 South
Mondays
9 p.m.

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