Open mics, ears at The LAB

Attending open-mic night at The LAB Antimall in Costa Mesa is a lot like a game of artistic roulette — you never know what number is going to come up next.

Acts on Wednesday night outside the Gypsy Den and adjacent to Creme Tangerine Records, the event's sponsors, ranged from hip-hop and the spoken word to acoustic rock.

"Coffee-shop gigs are a lot more open than concerts," said Tom Bot, a guitarist and singer in The Flux, which performed. "That's what these shows are — open. People here are open to whatever comes at them."

Following a soft, crooning acoustic guitarist, the hip-hop rock duo — representing only half of The Flux — poured melodic tunes and fast-paced lyrics into the microphone.

As a pilot run, the Gypsy Den and Creme Tangerine Records hosted the two-hour event from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 8 and 22 in the furnished open patio at the alternative Bristol Street shopping center.

If deemed successful, the event could become a regular occurrence, said Parker Macy, owner of Creme Tangerine Records.

As it were, about 50 people streamed between the LAB's living room and adjacent stores, including Urban Outfitters and Pop Killer, during the duration of the multiartist show.

Each artist was allowed between five and eight minutes, or a set list of three pieces, whichever was shorter.

"If it wasn't for open mics, I don't know what I would have done," said Macy, who received nominations for Best Live Acoustic and Best Blues categories at the 2012 Orange County Music Awards. "From there, I graduated onto coffee shops, to bars and eventually paying gigs."

Besides launching new artists, open mics serve to expose listeners to raw music that hasn't been altered by high-tech studio equipment, he said.

"It's cool when you hear a mistake or the singer's voice cracks," Macy said. "We're so used to listening to perfect music all the time."

For guitarist, singer and songwriter Scott Thorberg, who moved from St. Louis to Costa Mesa about six months ago to pursue a music career, open mics also provide the best opportunity for real feedback from an audience.

"Playing in front of people is the only way to getting better," said Thorberg, lead singer and guitarist for Acoustic Groove.

Thorberg, who has about 10 years of live performance experience to draw from, won the audience's attention with his easy baritone and smooth strumming of guitar strings.

Other performances were not as polished, but the audience remained attentive throughout the sets.

Shoppers and LAB restaurant diners, shopping bags and to-go cartons in hand, were among those who filled the white couches. Some sat and listened for more than an hour, while others looked on curiously as they walked by.

"Sometimes you agree with it, sometimes you don't," Macy said. "But it's always straight from the heart."

Twitter: @speters01

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