Open-mic nights are a gamble, no matter which side of the mic you're on. As a performer you're laying bare your songcraft and hoping the audience applauds; as a listener you have to contend with this songcraft-baring and hope it goes down easy. This tension is nicely dissipated at the Atomic Cowboy's open mic, held each Monday. Helmed by the easy-going Ryan Spearman, a fine bluegrass guitar and banjo picker in his own right, this laid-back night attracts the usual singer-songwriters, as well as armchair strummers and even acoustic punk acts. Expect to hear songs plucked from local notebooks as well as the occasional Gillian Welch or Rolling Stones cover. Spearman, who teaches guitar at Music Folk, lets his demeanor set the tone for the evening, and most Mondays conclude with an all-in jam session. There's no better way to get your chops up to speed and to make that first step toward rock & roll superstardom.