A friend of mine (Bruce Schaffstall) recently invited me to a new weekly open mic that takes place every Thursday at the Nifty Fifty Bar. The Nifty Fifty is a great place known for musical entertainment on Buffalo Street in Niagara Falls, New York. The facility is beautiful and the patrons friendly.
This open mic is very capably hosted by Peg Silvestri, someone who has hosted other open mics in Niagara County and has a decent following of open mic music fans and musicians alike. Most performers sang around 4-6 songs, which is generous compared to some other open mics.
This visit supported my belief that Niagara County has some of the most talented performers in Western New York. In fact, in my visits to open mics in and around Niagara Falls, my first thought is to go home and practice more.
What makes the Nifty Fifty Bar so unique is not just the incredible musicians who come here. It is because so many of them are great singers. Call this open mic “Harmony Central.”
It starts with Peggy and her daughter Alex- 2 very gifted singers who can sing harmonies to anything or with anyone. But there were a plethora of other singers on this evening supplying killer harmonies: folks like John Dudley, Laurie Jiricitano, Burt Royce, Sue Achill, Cathy Achill, and others.
Like other collaborative open mics, there are musicians happy to sit in with the performers if they want an added guitar or piano or a back up singer. Versatile players like drummer Dave Draper, vocalist Andrea Zaccarella, Slide and bass player Ken Johnson and others are usually there to help out. This collaborative atmosphere led to many incredible performances during the course of the evening.
The age range of this open mic is wide and the skills go from beginner to seasoned player. They very open to all kinds of music, but classic rock is a frequent theme. If you like harmonies (how could you not?), this is an open mic for you. Spontaneous on-the-spot harmonies were common, sometimes 3 and 4 part harmonies.
Although this open mic has been open for a few weeks, there is already a simmering culture of respect and appreciation for performers that can often be missing at other open mics. Although many of the attendees seemed to know each other, newcomers like me are made to feel welcome.
This group that frequents this open mic also have a sort of “pub crawl for Open mic’ers”, headed by Frank Thompson. This is where a group of open mic‘ers actually tour several other facilities in the same evening, bringing this groups unique musical skill set to several Erie and Niagara County drinking establishments. However this “pub-crawl” is for performing, not necessarily drinking. This is something I have not ever seen or heard of anywhere else, and it sounds like great fun for performers and listeners alike.
Currently, the Nifty Fifty Bar is rated by www.openmicreviews.com in 2nd place tied with the Sportsmen’s Tavern Open Jam after its second week. Needless to say, I recommend this open mic. If you live in Erie County, it is well worth the drive.
Tim Weir maintains the website: www. openmicreviews.com , and has also written articles for publications in Central New York such as the Palladium Times in Oswego and the Citizen in Auburn, NY.