BEST OPEN MIC - 2007
Open-mic nights come and go in this town, rising and falling with the fortunes of arty coffeehouses and bars owned by aspiring poets. Some last for only a few feeble experiments, some plod along for years. None, however, matches the import of Leslie Ball's weekly cabaret at the Southern Theater, which got its start all the way back on August 5, 1991 and has chugged along regardless of foul weather, debilitating illness, or occasional lack of interest. Leslie's cabaret is truly open mic—just call and leave a message that you want to perform (612.340.0155) and, if there's a slot, she'll pencil you in. As a result, there's a marvelous variety of performances on hand, much broader than the straightforward doggerel readings and acoustic-guitar sets that plague most open mics. (It probably also helps that Balls takes place in a theater.) On any Saturday night, you might find a motley assortment of storytellers and street musicians. But, mixed in, you'll also tend to discover improv comedians, tap dancers, puppeteers, standup comics (both Ari Hoptman and Nick Swardson have made regular appearances), and truly indefinable performances. All of this is overseen with genuine affection by Miss Ball, herself a fine and rather underrated singer/songwriter.