If you’re looking for refuge from the -30 wind chill in a friendly atmosphere with beer, chilli, and live music, you should consider checking out Mugshots on Wednesday nights.
Mugshots is the bar located inside the Ottawa Jail Hostel and on Wednesday nights it becomes the venue for a packed open mic night filled to the brim with talent.
“The calibre of people we get in here… they’re incredible,” said host Jeff Watkins.
If this past Wednesday was any indication of what usually goes on here, Watkins is right. Not only are the acts incredible, but they’re also varied. From folk, to country, to ballads, to rock, to looping fiddles, Mugshots provides a night full of surprises and excitement.
The night started out at 9 p.m. with sign-up. Artists roll in, hitting up the bar first to pen their name on the sign-up sheet. Each one of them gets two to three songs, making for a 15 to 20 minute set.
At 10:00 p.m. Watkins took to the stage to get the night started and welcome everyone with a cover of Heart of Gold by Neil Young. He broke a guitar string. Someone shouted from the audience, “Do you have another one? I might have a spare!”
This is a shining example of the camaraderie and support that exists at Mugshots. While every artist is full of talent, that’s not to say they’re all veterans. Newcomers are just as welcomed and encouraged.
Katrine Rasmussen, visiting Canada from Denmark, did her first ever performance last night with an acoustic cover of Birthday Sex by Jeremih. Watkins got on stage with her for moral support, playing shaker and singing harmony in the chorus.
“I think I’m the only person here who’s actually a guest at the hostel,” she said. “I thought it would be more low-key, like a good place to try for your first time.” She said she almost took her name off the sign-up sheet when she saw what kinds of acts were going on.
But everyone was glad she stuck to it. She got a huge reaction from the crowd and was even coerced into an encore, having originally planned on just doing the one song.
The night eventually turned from “acts” to one giant jam session. The end of the night saw five people on stage, jumping in when they felt inspired to do so.
Finally, at 2 a.m., the last artists and patrons scattered out into the night, back into the cold, but warmed on the inside.