BY SUSAN JOHNSON AND GEORGE FJELD
BRANDON–A steady stream of musicians filed into the taproom at Red Clover Ale Company last Thursday night for the weekly open mic hosted by Emily Nelson. She started the event in November, 2022. “It was a little slow at first, but now we have packed line-ups week after week,” she reported.
“We are so appreciative of Emily,” said Riker Wikoff, co-owner of the taproom. “It’s awesome, particularly at this time of year, to feel like there’s something going on in town.” Andy Gates, another co-owner, chimed in, “It’s amazing that there is no shortage of good musicians in Brandon.”
Armed with her clipboard, Emily, who has played in three different bands at Red Clover in the past, organizes the line-up. She started the evening playing her acoustic guitar and was accompanied by Wendy Fjeld on drums.
They were quickly followed by Rachel Fickes on guitar with a Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, “Cathedral,” with Sue Gage and Suzy Watters joining spontaneously in harmony from the audience. Wendy Fjeld was up next with a Lucinda Williams song, “Lines around Your Eyes.” Wendy, who is a seasoned musician, is finding a reason to pick up the guitar again. “It’s been a while since I was in the band,” she said. “Open Mic really motivated me and gives me an outlet to play music again.”
Ellie Romp was next on the fiddle, accompanied by Adam Dewey. Her brother Henry arrived mid-song and joined right in on his upright bass. The sister-brother, fiddle-bass combination was a sight and sound to behold. Jud Markowski from Bridport followed, bringing an unusual twist to the line-up with his accordion.
Adam Dewey got the crowd rocking with his sing-a-long “Drunk and Crazy.” His former band, out of Boston, was called Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek. With his experience, he knew how to get the crowd rowdy. Guitarist Doug Ross was up next with Hillary Collier on vocals. He convinced his new(ish) neighbor, Lucas Montgomery, to accompany on drums. “Open mic is great because it’s casual and the audience is so appreciative,” said Doug, who typically plays covers he knows well but sneaks in an original composition now and then.
After Rocky Long resonated his dobro and sang, Rob McCuen of Bloodroot Gap and Swing Noir fame took the floor. Leading the way with his ripping mandolin playing, many of the other musicians joined in to the great delight of the crowd.
Bringing musicians together, in fact, is a great benefit of open mic night.The audience always seems to enjoy seeing the artists form new, spontaneous alliances. “The important thing about this,” notes Emily, “is that it’s laid back. No one has to be polished; we’re just there to have a good time.” All were entertained last Thursday and many stayed until the end. “I was only going to stay for one beer but I ended up spending the whole evening,” was a common refrain.