It wasn’t even 4 p.m., and there was already a line forming outside of Arlene’s Grocery. We were still in the office when the venue told us that people were showing up early for the open mic night. We headed downtown, and by the time we got there, the line was already halfway down the block. The first people in line—a group of new friends who came in from as far as Toronto and Philly—told us that they’ve been waiting there since 11 a.m.
By the time we started sign-ups at 7:30, the line was wrapped around the block and there were spontaneous cyphers breaking out every few minutes (see more on our Snapchat, username: PigsAndPlans). It was a beautiful thing, and something that we were totally unprepared for. We knew that we might have more artists than we could accommodate, but no idea that it would be this crazy.
I was worried that artists would be pissed—people skipped work, traveled for hours, and waited in line all day just for a shot at the stage, and we’d have to turn down a lot of them. When the show started, though, it was obvious that this was about more than an open mic. The open mic night became a place for artists to connect with other artists, to support each other, and to share ideas, music, and contact info.
About four performers in, a young artist from Toronto named Erik Flowchild stepped on to the stage. “What’s up New York? I came here from Toronto, so I don’t sound like you,” he said quietly. Without hesitation, New York rapper Salomon Faye put up his hand and shouted from the audience, “You sound like us brother!”
At that moment, it was clear that something special was happening. The environment was so positive, and everyone came together for something bigger than a mic and a stage. Over the years, Pigeons & Planes has existed mostly online. With our No Ceilings showcases, we realized how important it was to also operate in the real world. With the open mic night, things got taken to the next level. It’s not just about us curating, judging, or deciding what’s good and what’s not. It’s not about us at all. The digital world is more hectic than ever before, and creating a place for artists and creatives to connect in real life is still so valuable. We lose sight of that sometimes, but we saw it last night.
Thank you so much to all the artists who performed and everyone who came to support. An even bigger thank you to all the artists who waited in line and didn’t get a chance to perform. We will most definitely make this a regular thing. Stay tuned.
The full list of everyone who performed: