Fittingly located in the progressive town of Carrboro, coffee shop Johnny's Gone Fishing has been hosting a number of events aimed at bringing the community together for years, including an Open Mic Saturday.
Johnny’s Gone Fishing is an ex-grocery store-turned-coffee-shop, located only about two miles from campus. According to manager Susan Siplon, it’s meant to be a space to bring the community together.
And on Saturday, that’s exactly what they tried to do. The shop hosted one of their many open mics, featuring performers of all ages. Some recited spoken word poetry, some sang original songs and one woman even did stand-up comedy.
“What’s nice about our open mics is that it’s an intimate setting where it encourages people who have never done one before,” Siplon said. “One of my employees that performed even decided to get together with some other performers on Wednesday nights to song-write, so it’s really great to see the community come together.”
The opening act for the event was Ashley Nemiro, who sang while her boyfriend played guitar. “I always sang, but stopped after high school,” she said. “I run a non-profit, and through it I met my boyfriend, and we started singing on his balcony every night and we loved it.”
Nemiro said the Siplons are active within her non-profit, Mamafrica, which is based out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and helps women who are affected by the conflict there. They sell African-inspired clothing, with all proceeds retuning to the DRC to provide education, healing arts programs and economic opportunity.
“We really wanted to get out and perform. So (Siplon) asked us if we wanted to play,” Nemiro said.
Nemiro and her boyfriend threw together a set and performed for an hour, which she said helped her get a feel for performing in front of an audience, which she’d never done before.
“It’s more than a coffee shop, for me,” Nemiro said. “It’s a great place for people to come together, and a great place for people to start performing at.”
Katie Orton, a Johnny’s Gone Swimming employee and a performer at the open mic, said the accepting atmosphere is the best part of performing.
“The audience is smiling and encouraging, that’s why it’s such a good place,” Orton said. “I wrote my song the night before, and I messed up the melody, but people said the words stuck with them. They came up and complimented me afterward.”
Johnny’s Gone Fishing has their next open mic on Oct. 25, and Siplon said anyone is welcome to sign up. Not only does the venue support musical and literary artistic minds, it also sells works from other local artists and provides an array of instruments for customers to use at any time.
“We are very supportive of local artists, and open to people bringing their things in,” Siplon said. “I don’t want it to be like a library — I want it to be a social space.”
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