York open mic nights – Your complete guide, updated for 2016

Who'll be stepping up to the mic? Photograph: Vinnie's Open Mics & Gigs! on Facebook
21 Jun 2016 @ 4.28 am
| News

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When it comes to music, York is punching well above its weight. No other English town or city of comparable size has anywhere near as many gigs and music events.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the city’s lively open mic scene.

  If you are a venue or open mic host and your night is not listed below, sorry we missed you out. Please send us details of the event and the organiser’s email and or phone contact details.

There are at least 22 weekly, one fortnightly and seven monthly open mic events. And those are just the ones we know about.

Our listing below is organised by day (weekly events first, then the monthlies). Some organisers ask performers to book a time to play, but for most events it is just “turn up and hope to get a slot”.

If you are a performer

Don’t expect every venue to have a spare guitar. Most do, but it’s worth checking. If there’s a big queue of players, don’t expect to play more than three songs or 12-15 minutes.

Of course, sets sometimes last much longer than this, but the organiser is boss. A couple of the events listed below are regularly over-subscribed, and you might get just one song or two.

If you’re a band with a drummer, check with the host, as some venues are in residential areas and a noise policy applies.

There are some good etiquette tips for performers here.

If you are a member of the audience

Give the acts a break. Some will be playing in public for the first time or trying out new material.

And if you like what you hear, buy a CD. The acts are playing for, at best, just a beer and sometimes not even that. Buying their music helps support this vibrant scene.

If you want to talk to your mates through the music, fine, it is a bar after all. But, please, move to the other end of the room and give the musicians a chance.

Check first
We strive to make these listings as accurate as possible; but it’s a fast-moving scene, and venues and organisers often make late changes to their schedules. You are advised to check with the venue or click the links to see their latest updates.

Monday

Weekly

Golden Ball

  2 Cromwell Road, York YO1 6DU

  Mondays, 8.30pm-11pm

  01904 652211

  Facebook page

  Pub website

  Organiser: David Phillipps

Folk, stand-up, spoken word, juggling dancing, singer-songwriter.

On the night YorkMix checked it out, one of the acts found a guitarist playing jazz chords while his colleague solved a Rubik’s Cube!

Original material preferred – or significantly different interpretations for cover versions.

Performers receive a pint for performing (usually up to three songs) and can use the house guitar and PA system.

Tuesday

Weekly

Spread Eagle

  98 Walmgate, York, YO1 9TL

  Tuesdays, 8:30pm-11pm

  01904 270533

  Spread The Jam Open Mic Night Facebook page

  Pub Facebook page

  Organisers: Jonno Cornell and Nicholas Cope

Where many open mics are determinedly acoustic singer-songwriter events, The Spread Eagle’s Spread The Jam night breaks the mould by welcoming full bands, and encourages this by providing ‘full back-line gear’.

Even drummers are welcome!

As if that’s not enough, Jamaican street food is near at hand too.

The Three Tuns

  12 Coppergate, York YO1 9NR

  Tuesdays, 8pm-11pm

  01904 673097

  Facebook

  Organiser: Organiser: Craig ‘Vinnie’ Whitehead

Another of Vinnie’s popular nights, there’s a free drink in it for performers.

Sotano

  1 Little Stonegate, York YO1 8AX

  Tuesdays, 9pm till late

  01904 620230

  Sotano Facebook page

  Ruby Tuesdays Open Mic on Facebook

  Organiser: Chris Helme

Chris Helme hosts this open mic known as Ruby Tuesdays in addition to his Turn the Tables vinyl night.

The intimate subterranean venue (beneath Kennedy’s bar) lends this night a distinctly intimate vibe.

The former Seahorses vocalist’s eclectic taste in vinyl (deep soul, psychedlia, Sixties pop and blues played between performances) adds to the sense of occasion.

A great showcase for the cream of York’s musical talent.

If you’re lucky, you might be there on a night York legend David Ward Maclean is dropping by.

Fossgate Social

  25 Fossgate, York YO1 9TA

  Tuesdays, 7:30pm till close

  01904 628692

  Facebook page

  Pub website

A regular fixture on York’s music scene at a cosy bar with comfy cushions and corners to hide in.

Wednesday

Weekly

The Golden Fleece

  16 Pavement, York YO1 9UP

  Wednesdays, 8:30pm-midnight

  01904 625171

  Pub website

  Organiser: John Yates 07583 279202

Known as one of York’s most haunted pubs, perhaps the ghosts will join in too…

Welcomes all, just turn up on the night to the Merchants bar.

They also run a second night every Thursday at 8:30 in the Shambles bar, free for anyone to perform.

Phoenix Inn

  75 George Street, York YO1 9PT

  Wednesdays, 8.30pm

  01904 656401

  Facebook page

  Phoenix Inn on Twitter

There’s a decidedly jazzy, non-conformist, almost beatnik feel to this little jewel of a venue.

With regular jazz nights featuring Ian Chalk’s FireBird Quartet (first and third Sundays), the open mic opportunity comes on Wednesday with a friendly Jazz Jam.

The pub’s other jazz quartet of James Lancaster (trumpet), Chris Moore (keys), George/Christian (bass) and Trevor King (drums), invite other musicians and vocalists to sit in.

The Habit

  40 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LF

  Wednesdays, 9pm-midnight

  01904 611072

  Habit Open Mic with David Ward Maclean Facebook

  Pub Facebook

  Organiser: David Ward Maclean

Everyone who is anyone in York music has played this long-running open mic gig, hosted originally by the unique Mark Wynn and now by David Ward Maclean, living legend of the York music scene who has earned fans such as Benjamin Francis Leftwich.

It can be a crowded and bustling all-ages night with regular drop-by performances from the widest range of genres in town, in a venue that promotes a relaxed folky and blues vibe.

Acts usually get three songs at most, so it is a fast-paced evening. The Elderly Brothers (Ian Ravenscroft and Ron Chalkley) can often be relied on to deliver some classic Sixties covers… and it’s a great place to spot the city’s up-and-coming talent trying out before a lively and supportive audience.

The Nags Head

  56 Heworth Rd, York YO31 0AD

  Wednesdays, 8pm-11pm

  01904 424200

  Pub Facebook page

  Organiser: Craig ‘Vinnie’ Whitehead

The Nags Head is the newest of Vinnie Whitehead’s open mic nights. With a free drink for every performer, there’s always a friendly atmosphere.

Wednesday

Monthly

The Woolpack – First Wednesday of the month

  6 Fawcett Street, York YO10 4AH

  First Weds of the month, 8pm

  01904 611060

  Facebook page

  Pub website

This open mic night is taking a summer holiday but will be back in the autumn. A welcoming night open to all styles and abilities, just turn up and they’ll find a time for you.

When the acts aren’t performing, there’s always a relaxing game of bar billiards to be had.

Thursday

Weekly

Ye Olde Starre Inne

  40 Stonegate, York YO1 8AS

  Thursdays, 9pm till late

  01904 623063

  Facebook page

  Organiser: Robert Loxley Hughes

You might have caught host Robert Loxley Hughes (of We Could Be Astronauts) downstairs at The Graduate open mic in the past.

Now this affable musician with a rocking soul moves his open mic magic to Ye Olde Starre Inn.

Thomas’s Bar

  3 Museum Street, York YO1 7DT

  Thursdays, 9pm-3am

  01904 637901

  Thomas’s Facebook page

For those who don’t mind very late fun on a school night, Toy (Thomas’s of York) Open Mic boasts a full back line, including bass and drums.

It pulls in many of the city’s instrumentalists looking for a lively jam session on one of the city’s busiest music nights.

The night is mostly dominated by musicians but comedy acts are welcome too. There’s a free drink in it for the first five performers who sign up.

Three Legged Mare

  15 High Petergate, York YO1 7EN

  Thursdays, 9pm

  01904 638246

  Pub website

  Organiser: Alistair Lawrence

Co-run by singer-songwriter Dan Webster and pianist Alistair Lawrence.

Here’s one of the few places in the county with an open mic that can accommodate pianists. There’s a free pint for those who perform.

Thursday

Monthly

Artful Dodger – First Thursday of the month

  47 Micklegate, York YO1 6LJ

  First Thurs of the month, 8pm-late

  01904 644102

  Pub website

  Organiser: Johnny Gill

Johnny Gill brings his engaging brand of acoustic folk/pop to the hosting duties of this monthly regular.

With the promise of lots of tea (specialty and iced varieties too!) as well as free toast, it’s hard to resist this unique night of tea, toast and tunes.

Bishopthorpe Sports and Social Club – Last Thursday of the month

  12 Main Street, Bishopthorpe, York, YO23 2RB

  Last Thurs of the month, 8pm-late

  01904 644102

  Club website

  Organiser: Becki Stilest

New in 2019, this Bishopthorpe event is very inclusive – any talent welcome, singing, dancing, instrumentalists, drummers, poets and comedians.

Friday

Weekly

The Nook Café and Bar

  3a Castlegate, York YO1 9RN

  Fridays, 8pm-midnight

  01904 627122

  Facebook page

  Organiser: Toby Burras

Toby Burras’s dazzling jazz-infused guitar stylings have earned him thousands of admirers as a busker on the streets of the city.

Amiable Toby describes his own music as “scattershot pop” and he hosts this night at the intimate Nook. Everything from gangster rap to didgeridoo performances are welcome.

Friday

Monthly

Volunteer Arms – First Friday of the month

  5 Watson Street, York YO24 4BH

  First Fri of the month, 8.30pm

  01904 541945

  Pub website

The very affable Habitual Drunkards, a.k.a Rich Tull and Tony Rogers, are the hosts of this humorous and relaxed evening.

They also run a traditional music night on the last Thursday of each month which takes the form of an open folk ham session.

Inquiries via the pub: 01904 541945.

Saturday

Monthly

The Basement – Last Saturday of the month

  City Screen, 13-17 Coney Street, York YO1 9QL

  First Sat of the month, 7.30pm-11pm

  Facebook page

  Basement website

  Organiser: Toby Burras

Elsa Cloud (aka Elle Nelson of Honeytone Cody, and online interior design emporium, The Velvet Egg) works with organiser Toby Burras to highlight this eclectic monthly open mic, in the chilled surroundings of the City Screen.

The night is designed to ‘showcase those with the creative buzz’. In practice, says Elle, this means any kind of performer: “Poetry, comedy, musings, music, monologue and miscellaneous!” Everyone from guest headliners to first timers are welcomed.

Slots are no longer than 10 mins and are allocated on the night. It is recommended that performers arrive in time for doors at 7:30 to avoid disappointment.

Sunday

Weekly

The Bootham Tavern

  29 Bootham, York YO30 7BW

  Sundays, 7pm-11pm

  01904 620251

  Organiser: Joska de Langen & Anthony Falkenburg

Called The Sunday Jam, this is hosted by Joska and Anthony who say: “Come show us what you got!”

The Red Lion

  2 Merchantgate, York YO1 9TU

  Sundays, 6.30pm-11pm

  01904 640418

  Organiser: Craig ‘Vinnie’ Whitehead

The Red Lion’s weekly Sunday night entertainment is back.

Craig ‘Vinnie’ Whitehead curates this well-established weekend regular that promises a free drink for every performer.

The Mount

  72 Blossom Street, York YO24 1AR

  Sundays, 7.30pm-10pm

  01904 289740

  Facebook page

  Organiser: Jimbo Doomface

Jim (or Jimbo Doomface) and Taz’s Open mic at the Mount is thriving regular night for the acoustic and electro folk lovers.

The Hop

  11-12 Fossgate, York YO1 7NY

  Sundays, 8:30-10:30pm

  01904 541466

  Pub website

  Organiser: Toby Burras

Toby Burras’s other open mic (see Friday, The Nook, above), with the added advantage that Prosecco is on tap and pizza is not too far away. All are welcome and a variety of acoustic sets are performed.

In addition to their weekly Sunday night music, The Hop also has Local Wednesdays, allowing local artists to perform their own songs or catchy covers throughout the night.

Dusk

  8 New Street, York YO1 8RA

  Sundays, 10:00pm-2am

  01904 634851

  Facebook page

When most sensible folk are getting into their jim-jams and aiming to hit the hay, well, that’s when this exceptional end-of-the-weekend gig just starts to get into its stride – and the not-so-sensible folk turn up in droves. Kicking off at 10:30pm, the music and bar remains open until 2am.

Helmed by GT Turbo (aka Dan Lucas of Boss Caine renown), acoustic musicians with original songs are particularly welcomed (but the host is broad-minded and forgiving, except when it comes to anyone wanting to playWonderwall; he has standards, after all).

Where do all the city’s great musicians and open mic organisers go when they fancy a night off? Look no further. The night never starts early and remains as packed, weird and wonderful as always.

The Black Horse

  29 Monkgate, York YO31 7PB

  Sundays, 3pm-7pm

  01904 620284

  Facebook page

  Organiser: Jez Russell

For anyone who doesn’t fancy a late night but wants some afternoon tunes, look no further than Suzy and Jez’s chilled out open mic.

With a friendly and intimate vibe they run the open mic with the possibility that it turns into a relaxed jam session. Dancing and improvising with others encouraged.