Red Room Lounge has hosted plenty of hip-hop stars, but its open mic night is all about community

click to enlarge Red Room Lounge has hosted plenty of hip-hop stars, but its open mic night is all about community
Erick Doxey photo
Mikah Smith on flute

For 16 or so years, Red Room Lounge has been an understated staple in Spokane's music scene. While it often doesn't get the same hype as venues of a similar size in Spokane, it's been graced by hip-hop greats like Warren G, Mobb Deep and Nappy Roots — not to mention Ms. New Booty himself, Bubba Sparxxx, who made a recent post-Hoopfest appearance. In addition to regular hip-hop bangers, Red Room Lounge hosts regular open mics on Mondays.

According to owner Craig Larsen, the opportunity to share the same stage as some of these legends is, in part, what makes his Monday night open mic so special for new artists. Larsen has bartended for most of the Red Room Lounge's open mics over the years and is behind the bar when I swing in to check it out.

"Open mic gives artists an opportunity," Larsen says. "That's why I like it — it gives people a chance to get rid of stage fright and get a natural reaction from the audience. It's important to give people a space to show off — like Joey, that long-haired rock 'n' roll guy over there. He's an amazing guitar player — he loves this place. He could be in his studio, but the stage is a whole different thing. We're not the Knitting Factory, but we have the sound, the stage and the lighting a lot of places don't have."

And while Larsen has helped keep the Red Room's open mic a mainstay, he's also let it evolve.

"When we started, we'd have a lot of random people and hosts — people would burn out," Larsen says. "About three months ago, we partnered with MAC Movement. The MAC girls have set up a rotation of weekly hosts. They've been working really hard to bring in great hosts every week and keep things fresh. At the end of the day, we couldn't do everything we do without support from local artists, promoters and people who believe in what we do."

Red Room Open Mic

Mondays at 8 pm, free, 21+

Red Room Lounge, 521 W. Sprague Ave.

Shortly after I finish chatting up the owner, local rapper, singer and open mic host for June 24 Myla Cree welcomes the crowd and introduces the first of many interesting and original performances. The evening opens with a flute performance dedicated to "the merriment of tonight and the joy that it brings" and ends with an off-the-cuff psychedelic blues jam in which the performer envisions hooking up with an intergalactic bombshell — "we're gonna have alien babies, but I ain't gonna see 'em," he sings.

Melissa Phoenix, who's also taking part in the event's weekly artist vendor, is a harpist and singer. Bedazzled in psychedelic clothes with a voice not entirely unlike Tori Amos, she sings a few down-to-earth songs dedicated to the solstice. Matt Legard, of the local Smashing Pumpkins-influenced The Colourflies, performs acoustic cuts of his usually much louder rock songs. And, of course, Joey, the aforementioned dude Larsen points out with the David Coverdale haircut, rocks. He plays a few guitar-focused, instrumental compositions.

At the midpoint of the show, the MAC girls — Drea and Crystle — take the stage. Drea, who has a couple of hip-hop inspired stage names like Dr. Drea and Mac Drea, sings along with a few songs and talks about the importance of community in the arts, which is in line with the mission of MAC Movement. According to the group's Facebook, it exists to "feed starving artists and nourish creative growth."

"We're in a broken society, and we need big changes and something that brings us all together," she says. To follow, Crystle shows off a few shibari knots — a form of Japanese knot tying often used by the BDSM community — on some of her friends.

Red Room Lounge's open mic takes place every Monday at 8 pm. The event is open to all genres, including music, performance arts and comedy. The venue also hosts weekly art vendors.

If you want to check out some of Spokane's up-and-coming local musicians as they cut their teeth on stage or are seeking some stage experience yourself, get to the Red Room Lounge — maybe your own booty will be rockin' everywhere. ♦

Heathers: The Musical @ Spokane Civic Theatre

July 24-26, 7:30-10 p.m. and July 27-28, 2-4:30 p.m.
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