Steamboat Springs Chris Walsh stepped up to the microphone Thursday evening with nothing to prove. He adjusted his guitar strap, cleared his throat and began to sing about love and relationships to the small crowd that gathered in the dimly lit room of Steamboat's only Internet caf
Walsh has no recording contract. He knows of no producer waiting in the wings to get him to the top.
He just wants to sing and play his guitar.
The chance to sing and play in front of an audience, he said, comes as an added bonus.
Open Mic Night at GEEKSgarage gives Walsh, and aspiring artists like him, the chance to air their talent live every Thursday before a crowd.
Walsh, 25, said he doesn't feel any pressure to impress the people who watch him from the caf eclectic assortment of sofas and chairs.
Many of those people take their own turn at the microphone.
Some Thursday nights, the only people in the audience are those who come to perform.
"We entertain each other," Walsh said.
More experienced artists offer first-timers advice on how to improve their style and presentation.
"It gave me the confidence I needed to do it," Walsh said.
He and other area artists prefer to try out their skills in the coffeehouse atmosphere of GEEKSgarage.
The Internet caferves only non-alcoholic drinks and prohibits smoking.
People who come to Open Mic Night at GEEKSgarage want to be there, Ryan Beringer said.
Beringer, who moved to Steamboat Springs in January, said he was surprised at the wide variety of artists who present their talent every week.
He often takes to the makeshift stage to read some of his writing to the crowd.
As he stood behind the microphone Thursday evening, Beringer nonchalantly paged through several notebooks to find particular selections he wished to impart to his listeners.
One of his selections included a piece about his dog.
Many people lump musicians with open mic nights because they assume musicians are the only artists who want to share their craft, he said.
Despite the community's small size, Beringer said, writers and poets still have a once-a-week opportunity to express themselves in front of their peers.
"It's an outlet where people can share their stuff," he said.
The caf atmosphere puts people at ease so they are not so intimidated about standing in front of an audience, he said.
GEEKSGarage welcomes all talent, no matter how different or bizarre, manager Kip Strean said.
Strean, the host of Open Mic Night, said he has seen quite an assortment of acts and ages take to the stage.
Strean remembers watching 7- and 8-year-old violin players eek out a tune and older, accomplished pianists impress the crowd with their repertoire.
"We like it when we get the different age groups," he said.
The diverse pool of talent, he said, makes Open Mic Night successful.
Thursday evening maintains a family-friendly aura because no alcohol or smoking is allowed, he said.
GEEKSgarage opened its floor to promising artists last November after doing away with Open Mic Night in spring 2001.
Now Strean intends to continue building on the success of the past few months.
He wants to give the audience and performers an atmosphere akin to the coffeehouse setting of the 1960s, he said.
It's an atmosphere local artist Richard Galusha noticed when he came to his first Open Mic Night at GEEKSgarage last week.
The mood reminded him of 1960s beatniks' style, he said.
He heard about the place, he said, and was intrigued enough to come and enjoy the entertainment.
"It's a great venue for people to get out in front of people and show their craft," Galusha said.
Many people return week after week to mix some of their old repertoire with new material.
"They try to do a lot of different stuff all the time," Strean said.
People who wish to join the varied field of entertainers need only to add their name to Strean's list Thursday night.
He begins collecting names at 7 p.m., but people add their acts throughout the night, he said.
Open Mic Night may run as late as 11 p.m., depending on the number of artists and the size of the crowd.
Strean said he aims to give performers the tools to give their best performances.
He plays and sings a few tunes himself at the outset of the evening before introducing each person or group, and of course, doing a sound check on the mics.
When people are more confident about themselves, their performance improves, he said.
A lot of open mic nights traditionally capitalize on the availability of alcohol, he said, but GEEKSgarage takes a different approach.
"We filled the void with creativity."