One of the hot spots for or those seeking some variety in entertainment in Sequim for the last year-and-a-half has been the Thursday nights at Rainshadow Cafe.
Hosted by Bread & Gravy duo Jess and Stephanie Doenges, the cafe, 157 W. Cedar St., hosts weekly open mic sessions from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
According to Jess Doenges, who emcees the open mic events, this is the byproduct of years of work and interest in the area.
“I used to run an open mic at The Buzz (coffee shop),” he said. “After that closed, I knew there was still a need for something like it in the area. It just took a while to get it going.”
Doenges said that while life kept him and his wife Stephanie from focusing on getting another open mic night going in Sequim for several years, he did “float the idea to a few business owners” over the years. Eventually he decided to mention it to Rainshadow Cafe owner Dominique Hill, having performed in the cafe several times with Bread & Gravy.
Hill jumped on the idea.
“We’ve really loved having them here the last couple of years,” Hill said. “It’s quite an experience.”
Doenges said that during most weeks they have somewhere between 16 to 22 performers signed up for the two-hour session. He said he wasn’t sure how many people would gather to watch, but noted that “there have been times we’ve had to turn people away because of the fire code.”
While the majority of the performances are by musicians who either do solo work or come together with some of the other open mic regulars to create something new, there’s a wide variety of other performers as well.
“We also get comedians sometimes, poetry or book readings; we even have magicians every now and then,” Doenges said.
“We even had a fire-breather once, which was interesting in that space.”
According to Doenges, the signup sheet for the night’s performances goes out at about 5 p.m., half an hour before the open mic starts. Performers are limited to two songs or 10 minutes for their performance, and three spots are always reserved for first- or second-time performers.
“That’s an important thing for us, because I’ve seen a lot of these (open mic sessions) turn into the same few people every time,” Doenges said.
“We want to always make sure to have that space available for anyone who’s interested in joining in.”
Another big factor in bringing in new faces, Doenges says, is the welcoming atmosphere of the weekly open mics. He described it as a “welcoming, nice vibe” in the cafe every time they meet.
“The whole thing is very courteous and respectful; there’s nothing toxic about it,” Doenges said, adding that he’s seen some of the “most politically-opposed people be kind and respectful to each other.”
While Doenges said that he was ready for many of the open mic sessions to turn into impromptu Bread & Gravy shows in order to help fill the time, the group has rarely had to sign themselves up to play.
“Right away we were filling the (sign in) sheet up,” he said. “Mostly, Bread & Gravy just plays a sort of sound check before the open mic actually starts.”
While music is usually the highlight of the Rainshadow open mic nights, Doenges would love to see a little more variety each week to help really show the talents of those around the Sequim area.
“Improv would be good to see. I love some of the off the wall quirky stuff,” Doenges said. “I’d also love to see more kids getting involved. We’ve had a (teenager) show up recently who did really well, I’d love more of that.”