Open Minds Open Mic aims to revivify Frogtown next week, feat. special guest Eyedea

Next week a new artistically focused open mic project serving the perpetually overlooked Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul is launching with one simple goal: to foster Saint Paul's performing arts scene. Open Minds Open Mic is a project spearheaded by longtime host Shahbaz Shah (and many friends), and will debut with performances from special guest Eyedea - and, hopefully, some talented newcomers.

We spoke to Shahbaz about his host history and how he came about starting the weekly event.

The Chicago-born, Stillwater-bred Shah said of his performance art beginnings: "I started in Chicago in 2000 or 2001 working with a now-defunct arts collective called Brown Eyes of Sunshine Poetics. They were a group that formed in the late 90s and were functional up until the mid-2000s. My oldest brother was part of that group and helped usher me into the performance arts scene, and in the process began a show. He eventually became too busy and gave the hosting duties to myself and one of my friends. We hosted that for about a year. That was how I got into it originally. Then I co-hosted for three years one of the longest-running open mics in Chicago called the In One Ear Open Mic at the Heartland Café."

Shahbaz returned to Minneapolis in 2008 and for two years recused himself from the scene he'd been a part of since the early aughts. "Then the National Poetry Slam came to Saint Paul, that sparked andignited all kinds of ideas in me. I decided it was time to get back in the groove."

Since then Shah has called in favors from every corner of his address book in setting up Open Mind Open Mic; "I may have come up with the idea and done the initial groundwork but already there's a group of people that are helping to push this forward.I could never say that it was all me, I would not be able to show my face anywhere. That's not my style."

The event is very deliberately located - Frogtown's longstanding reputation seems to have precluded it from much involvement in our Cities' rich arts scene, whether the talent is there or not. "That's where I live, just on the other side of University near Western, not far from the location at all." It's also the neighborhood of next week's special guest Eyedea, the razor-sharp emcee and poet who a friend of Shah's asked to appear at the inaugural night. "He doesn't live far from the venue and opted to join us and be a part of it. We're hoping that by him coming into the event and bringing his following it will help kickstart the process. We plan on featuring either a musician, comedian or poet once a month."

"I'm expecting a decent turnout, I'm also hoping that it will encourage the musicians, poets, comedians and artists in general of the Frogtown area and greater Saint Paul to seek out a new place to share their expression. That's my expectation and I just hope that that continues to be enough to help get the bar get going too."

Open Minds Open Mic Premiere, featuring Eyedea
Coale's Bar and Grill, 719 North Dale Street, St. Paul, MN
Wed., Oct. 20, 9:30 p.m.
*$5 suggested donation, $3 if performing (no one will be turned away)

For more information you can contact Open Minds at: [email protected]

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