Find music, comedy, community at Tarzana open mic night

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“People tend to bond over whether they had a great set that night, or whether they had a rough set that night. There's always a chance for people to interact with each other and get to know each other on a human level,” Jerome Anderson says of his Tuesday night show Soapbox Sessions Open Mic. Photo by Jerome Anderson.

LA is a magnet for aspiring entertainers, and many have been drawn to Soapbox Sessions Open Mic in Tarzana’s Maui Sugar Mill Saloon. That includes former Ohioan Jerome Anderson, who takes the stage every Tuesday night to host the event.

“It's any given thing at any given time. … But generally … we get a nice mix of music, comedy, and spoken word poetry, and just a lot of good grassroots stuff that folks want to come and try out, whether they've written a new original song, or they want to practice that new instrument that they just picked up,” Anderson explains.

He made the trek from Cleveland to LA to be an actor, then found himself pulled onstage at Soapbox Sessions because of a random wardrobe choice. “I made the mistake of wearing a fedora to a blues night there. And people kept asking me, ‘When are you going to perform?’” 

So he rolled with it, quickly taking over MC duties. “I feel like my main job with this show is to make everybody feel welcome, make everybody feel like they're worthy, and make everybody feel like it’s their first show at the Hollywood Bowl.” 

Harry Perry, known for his rollerblading guitar-playing on the Venice Boardwalk, made the trip to Tarzana on a recent night to perform at the open mic. Photo by Jerome Anderson.

Performing in a bar not designed to be a performance space can be tricky, as artists of all stripes compete for attention while customers have a beer or watch a baseball game. “One of the challenges for the performers is being able to grab that audience's attention. But once they do, they've got fans for life,” notes Anderson.

He’s grateful for the gig and the positivity it brings to his life, along with the community it builds.

“In a town like this, where everybody's looking for a space to perform, everybody wants the platform. The fact that we get to do that every week is wonderful.”