STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTOS BY ALLISON HUANG
In a cozy nook brimming with laughter and music, Red Rock Coffee’s weekly open mics have for years drawn the attention of musicians and visitors alike.
And after a long pandemic-induced pause, the independent coffee shop can proudly say that the open mics are back, now taking place on Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“I think it’s just great to have people being together again,” said Jake Wichman, open mic host of six years. “It’s good for the artists to be around other artists and get inspiration from them, and also just for people to have a sense of normalcy again. It’s my favorite part of Monday.”
Red Rock has been hosting open mics on its second floor since 2005, but for a time, the future of its open mics was uncertain; the pandemic had left the coffee shop on the verge of shutting down entirely. However, an anonymous buyer purchased the cafe, with the intent of preserving its place in the community.
“There were a few weeks where we thought we might lose the open mic,” Wichman said. “I still have no idea who purchased Red Rock, but when we found out it was [purchased], it was a huge breath of fresh air.”
Red Rock’s secret savior may even be camouflaged among crowds of other open mic attendees, perhaps enjoying a cup of coffee while listening to the lineup of performers.
The open mic holds a special place in the hearts of many customers for the sense of community that it provides.
General Manager Jean Boulanger affirmed Red Rock’s importance to the community.
“People can come and be a part of something, be seen and be heard … we provide that ‘third place’ after home and work,” she said.
Every Monday night, the open-mic room houses an eager crowd; performers, from shy newcomers to roaring regulars, take turns under the spotlight.
“We want our open mic to be a place for anyone of any age or skill level to feel like they can come and have an attentive audience,” Wichman said. “We try to have a good sound system, good lighting, so people can really feel like they’re getting a full show experience.”
A wide range of songs — from covers of popular songs to unique originals — ensures that listeners are never bored.
Wichman encourages anyone who is thinking about performing to take the leap and visit an open mic.
“I would love to just continue to see more people come and experience [the open mic] because we’re a place where you’re not going to be judged, you’re not going to be critiqued for your performance — we’re just here to have fun,” Wichman said. “We want to enjoy art and support each other and lift each other up.”
Red Rock Coffee is located at 201 Castro St. Mountain View, CA. This open mic takes place on its second floor on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.