Open-mic nights are, by nature, touch-and-go operations. For those rare moments of transcendental beauty, there are twenty dudes trying to affect Dylan. You are bound to hear some bland singer-songwriters, who are attracted to open mics as moths to the flame (which may be a wishful image, depending on the singer-songwriter). You have to hand it to Frederick's Music Lounge for keeping the art form interesting: One night at the Hootenany, the sparse crowd was treated to a capella Irish ballads, some convincing Jeff Buckley mimicry and an interminable version of George Michael's "Father Figure" -- how's that for diversity, St. Louis?
While the cast of wayfaring troubadours is always a gamble, Fred's wisely puts a seasoned veteran in charge of the show, to encourage nervous performers and bang the proverbial gong when necessary. Some of this town's best-loved singers trade off the weekly gig, including Bob Reuter (Palookaville) and Brian Marek (the long-slumbering Rocket Park). This week players and patrons alike will be treated to Tommy Halloran, whose easy sense of humor and warm, raspy voice make him a standout in the scene. Halloran used to lead The Ambiguous They, one of St. Louis' best acts that never made it out of the coffeehouse circuit. In that band Halloran mixed '20s guitar jazz, Irving Berlin covers and a kickass horn section to create something special amid the countless rock bands in town. The Ambiguous They may be no more, but you can see Halloran in action at least once a month at Frederick's. There is no cover charge, but feel free to drop a few bucks in Fred's classy "Show Me Your Tips" bucket.