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Open-Mike Night, a BeBop Tradition, Is Back

“When BeBop closed, it was a big blow to a lot of us,” Michelle Klein-Hass says. “I want to try to recapture the spirit of that place.”

The late, lamented BeBop Records and Fine Art in Reseda was a magnet for poets and musicians, especially those without wide recognition in the arts community. The hole-in-the-wall record store staged regular concerts and open-microphone nights. Some of the performers were regulars, but often BeBop gave people their first chance to work before an audience.

Klein-Hass, a poet, and her husband, musician Richie Hass, have struck a deal with a Northridge music store to continue at least part of the BeBop tradition--the open-mike night. The first of the monthly events will take place tonight beginning at 7 at Big Valley Music.

“I want to open this up to anyone who is an acoustic musician, anyone who is a poet,” said Klein-Hass, who often read her verse at BeBop. “If there are closet poets or closet musicians out there who have a desire to have their work heard, this is their place.”

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Plans call for Big Valley Coffeehouse, as the events will be called, to take place on the last Friday of the month. If the turnout merits an expansion, the couple hope to add shows at the music store or elsewhere.

In consideration of the store’s neighbors, the programs are scheduled to end at 8:45 p.m. Whether they actually will is an open question, since poets are notorious hogs of microphone time.

A donation of $3 is asked from people attending. There is no additional charge to read or perform. Coffee and food will be sold.

Suzanne Saunders, manager of the store’s sheet music and book department, said Big Valley Music will make no money from the open-mike nights.

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“This is a community gesture,” she said. “Since BeBop closed its doors, there has been a need for an artistic get-together in Northridge.”

Saunders said a performing area will be set up to accommodate an audience of about 20.

Klein-Hass won’t predict whether Big Valley Coffeehouse will capture the sense of spontaneity and excitement that often characterized open-mike night at BeBop. While the store’s presentation of lesser-known performers sometimes drew only a few audience members, the open-mike sessions were popular.

“It’s amazing how many people there are in the Valley who are of an artistic bent,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people let their hair down and read at BeBop. People came in right off work very straight-looking and read. They’re a systems analyst in their day job and they’re an artist. It isn’t just what people would call freaks.

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“We’ll know it’s a success if something magic happens. It’s not the amount of people who come. It’s not the money brought in. It’s if the chemistry works.”

Big Valley Coffeehouse, an open-microphone night for poets and acoustic musicians, will begin at 7 tonight at Big Valley Music store, 8541 Reseda Blvd., Northridge. A $3 donation is requested. For further information, call (818) 894-0226 or 772-1668.


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