Everette Bigbee's experiences on and off the local stages have enhanced not only his technical know-how and electric guitar chops, but his people skills as well. As the host of the long-running "Open Mic with Ev" series in Mt. Pleasant, he nurtures the band scene with enthusiastic guidance from the sidelines.
It's been three years since Bigbee assumed the duties as emcee, and he's still enthusiasticaly plugging away.
"One thing that has been really cool is that I've seen bands start up who met jamming at my open mics," he says. "Their first time out of the gate, they're at my open mic — then, a year later, they're playing at the Windjammer or some local club. I think it's way cool. I've seen people who've come in at the beginning stages of this series and really blossom into something badass, you know?"
Bigbee, 46, is known among locals for his wild work in such area psyche-rock bands as Monster, Big Stoner Creek, Swank, Smoking Section, Big J. Hosaphat, and others. His newly formed rock combo, Stained Glass Wall, made its debut this summer at Buffalo South. The band's bassist, Joe Innella, met Bigbee through the open mic nights at Art's, gradually jamming on new material, switching from guitar to bass from week to week.
"I didn't intend to get my name known as the 'open mic guy' in town — that was never my intention," says Bigbee. "But I understand why it happened. I really enjoy being able to spread the joy of music and playing music. That is cool. When I was in Atlanta, it was this big dog-eat-dog thing, and bands were always trying to rip off your ideas and the whole nine yards. Man, that ain't what it's all about.
"We're all in the same boat," he adds. "It's us against the world. But it really doesn't matter if you're good or not. I can get really frustrated at times, but I hope everyone understands how much I appreciate them coming out, working with me, and being communal. Hell, they've given me a career and I appreciate doing the job."
Art's Bar & Grill is a pretty low-key place — no stage, just a spot to set up by the front window, three small lights, and a basic P.A. system. A sign-up sheet clipboard hangs on one of the P.A. speakers. On a Sunday or Monday evening, Bigbee can be seen rushing from one end of the room to another, updating musicians of their time slot, assembling mic stands to the side, setting up amplifiers and guitar stands, and fine-tuning the amp settings. He brings most of the gear, and even allows a few players to use his guitars.
Bigbee's been doing sound since before his teenage years. He knows how to run around and put out little fires along the way during gigs. His open mic setup is unique, and there's usually enough gear for everyone — from young rookie players and budding amateurs to weekend warriors who can shred and slap with skill.
"I'm getting good at my baseball signals," Bigbee laughs, referring to how he guides participants through key changes and arrangements on the fly. "I should probably go ahead and learn sign language, to signal the Es and As and Gs. There's a lot of really telepathic communication going on while playing in a band, but you need to maintain some visual cues here and there, too." —T. Ballard Lesemann