March may be “Music in Our Schools Month,” but you don’t have to actually be a student to celebrate here. Whether you’re an aspiring songwriter or simply eager to break out from beyond the confines of performing in your shower, Manhattan gives you lots of opportunities to step into the spotlight and sing or speak your heart out at an “open mic” evening. Start rehearsing and banish any thoughts of stage fright: you might even be discovered. And it’s easy on the pocketbook.
The Duplex: This legendary piano bar and cabaret in the West Village hosts open-mic every weeknight after 9pm. You can be “the audience,” if you prefer before 9 and enjoy their fabulous Broadway-style entertainment and listen to your bartender croon your favorite tune at the Piano Bar. www.theduplex.com, 212-255-5438, 61 Christopher Street
Baby Grand: This tiny space is the karaoke hotspot to visit in Little Italy. After singing and acting out one of the 18,000+ songs on the line-up, grab a bubble tea cocktail at the bar (that, of course, looks like a baby grand piano). Don’t forget to check out the monthly rotation of 24 one-inch slides in its tiny “gallery” space. www.babygrandnyc.com, 212-219-8110, 161 Lafayette Street
Sidewalk Cafe: Known as the “anti-folk stomping ground,” the East Village’s Sidewalk Café hosts open-mic on Mondays starting at 7:30pm, with a two-drink minimum. The system is lotto-style, so the party lasts all night. If you’ve ever wanted to check out the underground music scene in NYC, here’s the place to do it!
www.sidewalkmusic.net, 212-473-7373, 94 Avenue A
Nuyorican Poets Café: Gritty Alphabet City brings you a true multicultural experience at the Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) Poets Café. Not only does the café feature open-mic, it is also home to an über-popular poetry slam, literature readings, hip hop, and visual arts presentations. Audience participation is encouraged on the first Wednesday and the first Saturday of each month.
www.nuyorican.org, 212-505-8183, 236 East 3rd Street
Nightingale Lounge: If open-mic could be sexy, this is the place for it. Also, in The East Village, the sultry Nightingale Lounge offers its Saturn Series open-mic poetry readings every Monday at 7:30pm. There is a $3 suggested donation and a $10 drink minimum.
www.nightingalelounge.com, 212-473-9398, 213 2nd Avenue
Birdland: Come see why ABC-TV called Jim Caruso’s Monday night Cast Party “an extreme open mic!” Starting at 9:00pm, showbiz pros and newcomers alike are welcome on stage for an evening of non-stop entertainment. Jim starts collecting names at about 9:15, so get there early to secure your spot… and have a stage-fright calming cocktail. The cover is a whopping $10. www.birdlandjazz.com, 212-581-3080, 315 West 44th Street
Brandy’s Piano Bar: This Upper East Side piano bar is the place if you love Broadway and cabaret tunes. On Monday nights from 9pm until closing, the bar hosts open mic at the piano with no cover. On other nights, it’s the waiters and bartenders who provide the entertainment while the audience participates by singing along. Broadway performers have a habit of dropping in, too, to perform after hours. There’s no cover but tips are encouraged and there’s a two-drink minimum per set. www.brandysnyc.com, 212-744-4949, 235 East 84th Street
Cleopatra’s Needle: For a more serious open-mic evening, take a date to the Upper West Side to Cleopatra’s Needle, the jazz bar and cabaret named for the landmark Egyptian obelisk in Central Park (and in London). On Sundays from 4-8pm and Wednesdays from 7-11pm, the open-mic performances will wow you, as Cleopatra’s Needle attracts more seasoned performers. Cleopatra’s needles charges a minimum of $5 for vocalist and $10 for regular customers. www.cleopatrasneedleny.com, 212-769-6969, 2485 Broadway