Fergie’s Pub’s open mic night is a musical
Mecca for many unsigned Philadelphia musicians. Hosted for the last five years by the very talented and experienced drummer, Peter Gaudioso, Fergie’s has developed into a down-to-earth, welcoming community where people congregate simply for the love of music, downtown on 1214 Sansom St.
“Every musician I’ve talked to, when I’ve mentioned Fergie’s Open Mic, they’re just like, ‘Oh that’s the best one in town,'” said Janice Rowland, a professional actress and musician. “It’s the crowd, the house band [and] just the warm energy in the room. I do see a lot of the same musicians who are just running the open mic circuit. But Fergie’s is a very loyal crowd, and they are very well-established musicians who don’t need to go to open mics, but still go to Fergie’s.”
Rowland has become one of those well-established musicians. Besides performing professional gigs at Fergie’s, she’s also performed at The Tin Angel in Old City, at 20 S. 2nd St.
“It wasn’t until I came to Philly and started playing at Fergie’s Open Mic that I started playing out,” Rowland said as she sipped her Stella Artois in the crowded Fairmount area bar.
“The first night I went [to Fergie’s] I didn’t bring my guitar. I just wanted to see what it was about. By the end of the night I knew that, the next time I went in there, I would be playing. It was so warm and friendly, it’s just filled with positive vibes, and the house band is incredible and just so willing to pick up and play with a stranger.”
Incredible is an understatement when it comes to describing Fergie’s house jazz band. Consisting of event host Pete Gaudioso on drums, Anam Owili-Eger on keyboard, James Cooper on bass and Adam Todaro on congas, the band specializes in jazz, but plays to suit any style a performer may need for backup.
Owili-Eger is the up-and-coming star of the group. The singer/keyboardist’s soulful vocals blend harmoniously with equally intricate and catchy keyboard rifts. His music identifies with emotion and calms the soul while simultaneously exciting the imagination. Owili-Eger was even a finalist for the 2005 Singer/Songwriter Awards hosted by wearelistening.org, and has also been featured in “Stave Magazine”.
The keyboardist is not only crucial to the Fergie’s formula because of his musical talent, but also because of his gregarious, yet humble personality. Despite his close friendships with the regulars, he said he hopes future musicians will feel welcome at Fergie’s.
“I hope to see many new faces there, and anyone who’s new, if I don’t get to them first, I hope they feel free to come up and make a new friend in the [music] scene,” he said. Gaudios is the heart and soul of the musical Monday’s, however.
He welcomes everyone into Fergie’s with a warm smile, and once he’s gotten to know them a little better, he’ll often drop a good humored and sarcastic quip or two. Gaudios has hosted Fergie’s Open Mic for the past five years, bringing people in and bringing them back.
“Don’t be intimidated,” said Katie Barbatos, a senior social work major. The Fergie’s fan also hosts the open mic event on Tuesdays at Lickety Split, at 401 South St.
“[Open mics] are the place to go to work on your skills and meet people in the music industry and get a chance to perform.”
Barbatos is one of the most established performers to ever perform at Fergie’s. Before moving to Philadelphia, she performed regularly in Boston, playing the coffeehouse circuit and then at local open mic events. The regular has been featured on the radio and is working on her fourth album.
Although she hosts her own open mic, Barbatos has warm feelings for Fergie’s event.
“It’s sort of a good vibe. A lot of great musicians in the city play there,” she said. “It’s just a little bit of everything, so it’s performance-friendly. That’s what I like about it.”
Fergie’s is, indeed, a little bit of everything, but the musicians blend well together, and sometimes they even collaborate on the spot. Smooth-talking hip hop artist Drew Deckah, acoustic crooning Ashley Phillips and the house jazz band joined together a few weeks ago to give an outstanding performance.
The collaboration was organized on the spot a mere 30 seconds before it was performed. Spontaneity is one thing to look forward to at Fergie’s open mic nights.
A drawback for some is that Fergie’s open mics are designed for band performances more than solo acoustic sets. Fergie’s can also act as a stepping stone for performers at every level. When Owili-Eger needed to find new musicians for his band, he turned to Fergie’s, and when people are looking to get signed, they sometimes turn to Fergie’s, too.
“I’m sure I can remember a couple of times when artist and repertoire people have been there,” said Gaudioso, referring people sent by record companies to find new talent. “A lot of the people [at Fergie’s] are professionals.”
Victoria Spaeth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.