HYPERLOCAL NEWS HUB BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS DEPARTMENT OF JOURNALISM
To be, or not to be: Java Cabana Cafe hosts the longest running open-mic night to date in Memphis
By Jessie Wilks/MicroMemphis reporter
Eighteen years. That's how long Java Cabana has hosted open-mic night in the neighborhood of Cooper Young every Thursday.
The open-mic host, Gabriel Valdez, said, "The environment is extremely comfortable and everyone is supportive about expressing yourself; vocally or emotionally. That could be through playing acoustic guitar, reading poetry or whatever else may characterize who you are."
Mary Burns, owner of the eclectic coffee shop, bought the cafe back in November 1992 while she worked there as a barista. Burns said, "I've seen this place go through a lot of changes. It has a good bit of history and it's ever changing."
The open-mic experience began with more poetry readings from guests, and now there's more music. The constant morphing, vitality and growth of the open expression has kept people returning every Thursday night; even those that live out of town.
"People come from all over to be here, even different states. The crowd is really consistent, and it surprises me all the things people do, there's really a shocking amount of talent here," Valdez said.
Roger Rutledge (the singer featured in the video to the right) said he started coming to open-mic night two years ago and liked it so much he moved to the Cooper -Young area. Immersing himself in the C-Y area inspired him to write the original song, 'Cooper -Young Saturday Night'."
Rutledge said, " I have written several songs about Cooper-Young and am planning to put them on a CD in the next couple of months. I want to call it '38104'".
There are several open-mic nights throughout Memphis including karaoke nights, but most have cover charges, and usually don't last longer than a few months or during seasonal times.
Jeanette Burleigh started attending open-mic night a year ago and inspired her to begin writing poetry of her own. "It's just a good environment, it's essentially the essence of my being now and encourages me to write what I'm feeling," Burleigh said.
"You can just be whoever you want to be here," Rutledge said.
Java Cabana hosts Open-mic night every Thursday evening beginning at 8 P.M.