Spitting rhymes and a Pete Seeger postscript

Guerrilla rap: There’s a new open-mic in town, and no, I can’t tell you where it is.

That’s because the organizers move it every week to a new business, unbeknownst to the folks working there.

First it was at Slice of Broadway. Then Jimmy’s Barber Garage. Then La Garnacha. Then Hot Italian. Every week it got bigger, drawing rappers, hip-hop singers, spoken-word poets and musicians at approximately 8:08 p.m. on Monday nights. The location is supposed to be spread by word-of-mouth only—no Facebook statuses, no newspaper previews, no written words at all. Until after the fact, then social media is awash with #TheMostOpenMicInTheCity hashtag.

A couple weeks ago at Midtown’s La Garnacha on 16th Street, about 150 people flooded the taqueria and parking lot. Andru Defeye (full disclosure: He’s a freelance writer for SN&R under the name Andrew Bell) stood up on a chair to address the buzzing space.

“Some of you guys know what’s going on right now. Some of you have no idea,” the organizer said. “You have now entered the performance-arts dojo of Sacramento.”

And he proceeded to spit rhymes, people proceeded to cheer, and then someone else proceeded to take over. It was shockingly seamless, the way one artist would end and another would begin with no organization, no list and no moderator. It was anarchy, and it worked.

That’s what makes it so open. Anything could happen. Rapper Task1ne could be spitting, and then an anonymous guitarist could start strumming, and then Element Brass Band could magically show up and turn the parking lot into a party.

And the band really dug it, so much so that it invited #TheMostOpenMicInTheCity to join Element Brass Band’s new residency at The Press Club. Starting on Sunday, February 16, featured artists will perform over the band’s New Orleans second-line style of jazz every third Sunday of the month.

This will be in addition to a more conventional home at The Brickhouse Art Gallery in Oak Park (2837 36th Street). Starting the first Monday in March, participants will congregate there every other week, and take over other business spaces the rest of the time. For updates on the next #TheMostOpenMicInTheCity, head to www.zfgpromotions.com.

—Janelle Bitker

Jam on: Sometimes timing is everything. In August 2013, Sacramento musician and music lover Kim Alexander sent a letter to one of her musical heroes, Pete Seeger, the iconic folksinger and activist known for songs such as “If I had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

Alexander, also president of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation, hosts a monthly open-mic blues and folk jam at Old Ironsides downtown.

She wrote to Seeger as part of a long-standing tradition.

“[Each year] I try to write a letter to someone who matters to me on my dad’s birthday,” she said. “This year I wrote to Pete.”

In the letter, Alexander asked for advice on the best ways to “spread the message of making music” and included a printout of her list, “’Learn to Jam!’: 20 Tips for Making Music with Friends.” The rules of “jamiquette” include tips such as “Put together a binder of your songs and start building your repertoire,” and “Wait your turn. Jamming is a ‘small d’ democratic pastime.”

Then Seeger died on January 27, at the age of 94.

“I was sorry I had never heard back from him, but glad I had shared with him the impact he had on my life,” she said.

Then Alexander learned that the folk singer did write her back.

In a letter dated “January 2014” and postmarked two days before his death, Seeger praised Alexander’s efforts with a handwritten note in the margins of her original letter:

“Dear Kim, I’ve read this article several times. I think your article on jamming is wonderful and should be printed … and issued as a lovely pamphlet, on good paper with good drawings on the cover.”

He also lamented his inability to help: “My health is not good. … You stay well, keep on.”

For Alexander, the letter exemplifies her love for—and philosophy on—music.

“I really believe in the power of music to bring people together and feel a special honor, as well as obligation to carry out his wishes and carry on the spirit of making music and singing together,” she said. For more on Alexander’s correspondence with Seeger visit her blog

—Rachel Leibrock