When it comes to assessing the merits of an open mic (or, as the crowd at Frederick's would have it, a hootenanny), our preferences depend on our perspective -- a novice performer might favor nice emcees, for instance, and audience members that won't scream, "Show us your tits!" (one reason coffeehouses are often favored: no drunks). We're judging this category by another criterion, however: how much fun we can have offstage. Fun is where Frederick's Thursday hootenanny scores high. First of all, they buzz you in -- how fancy is that (Yeah, we know they'll open the door for anyone with the presence of mind to mumble a name into the intercom; it still makes us feel very special.) Inside, there's a real tree festooned in Christmas lights; behind the stage, a Daliesque painting in which a man's jacketed torso doubles as a huge white erection. There's the always-friendly and often-flamboyant Fred Friction behind the bar, carrying on a family tradition (his dad, the original proprietor, died a few months ago). The music, if inconsistent, is usually tolerable and sometimes sublime. Emcee Bob Camp, who drives up from the Bootheel every week, is as likely to cover the Highway Matrons (Friction's band) as the Stones. On a recent visit, we caught an incendiary performance by hootenanny regular Bob Reuter -- who wailed out Dylan and Chuck Berry with the support of several top-notch pickup musicians -- followed by an engaging set by Jim Saltsider, who performed a weird country tune based entirely on bumper-sticker slogans.