It was 9 on a Wednesday night, open mic at Ruby’s. We walked down the narrow stairway into the basement bar to the sound of a banjo and guitar picking old fashioned bluegrass classics. The lights were low and subdued, and the sounds of instruments muted into the plush carpets along with local artists’ paintings for sale, hanging from the cinderblock walls, set a neo-90s mood.
Ruby’s, a bar in collaboration with Clementine’s, the classier, upstairs part of the building, caters more to the younger, college crowd. No worries, however, if you are under the age of 21. All ages are welcome for open mic nights.
Buck and Walter, two Harrisonburg locals, played bluegrass classics, including the tune, “Big Country,” while soft chatter and laughter played around the room. People enjoyed well cooked food, cool drinks, and a unique atmosphere, helped by the ever present live music.
The banjo-guitar duo finished their set, and I found Buck packing up his guitar while the next performer set up his keyboard and microphone.
Buck said he enjoyed playing there. The atmosphere could not be surpassed. “Yes, it’s relaxed and not terribly upbeat,” he said. “But it’s nice to have a chill night with good music in the middle of the week.”
The open mic provides a break from the monotony of work or the school week. Phillip Martin, an EMU alumnus, joined me on my trek to Ruby’s.
He agreed that regardless of school or work, the Wednesday night at Ruby’s was a good time to hang loose and relax from the business of a work week.
For those unfamiliar with an open mic, it is a time for locals, or maybe people traveling through the area, to showcase their musical talents. Upon walking into the setting, one can usually find a sign-up list to perform. Anyone is welcome to sign up, and everyone is well received.
People understand that the performers are amateur musicians wishing to have a venue to display their talents, and to have a good time doing it among people of the same mindset.
The night finished around 10:30 with a singer-songwriter named Buffy. All of her original songs featured a soothing piano background with lusty, deep vocals, reminiscent of a smoke -filled pool hall set in inner city Chicago in the 1970s.
The sets ranged in diversity from traditional bluegrass tunes to grunge rock performers reminiscent of the beginnings of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And that is the benefit of an open mic in Harrisonburg. A city teeming with diversity is cause for a city teeming with diverse musical talents.
-Chris Yoder, Staff Writer
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