One Bensonhurst native is strengthening his commitment to the arts by kickstarting the second coming of a weekly open mic night at a popular Bay Ridge watering hole.
Liberty Mic Wednesdays – a concept originally conceived by the staff of Red White & Brew but given new life by now-Bay Ridge resident Vinny Bracale – premiered at the busy Fifth Avenue bar on Wednesday, January 18 to an impressive crowd of artists and friends.
Though this was by no means a first for Bracale, who spent some time growing up booking bands for a local Bensonhurst venue, or Brew, which has tried its hand at Wednesday open mics before, it was certainly a special one for both parties.
“The motivation really stems from a youth of reading poetry, growing up in the local music scene and having a personal interest in stand-up comedy,” said Bracale, who grew up on 18th Avenue and has since moved to Fifth Avenue in the Ridge, of his inspiration. “I felt that Brooklyn, specifically my neighborhood of Bay Ridge, needed a place that helps develop a community for the local neighborhood artists; a place to showcase a variety of talents.”
“Vinny really took Liberty Mic to the next step,” said Gerard Sullivan, the Wednesday night bartender at Brew and drummer of Bay Ridge band August on Sunday. “Without him, it would probably still be two thirds of August on Sunday performing to a less than engaged room. With Vinny running the show, we have a whole new audience and more opportunities for people to perform. I really admire the work he’s put into this project.”
Since its inception, both said, the event has only picked up steam, bringing in another solid crowd on its second Wednesday night and anticipating even more for its third.
“You always have a certain picture of how the night is going to go in your mind, but watching it unfold in reality was just something else,” said Bracale of Liberty Mic’s stellar premiere. “I can only hope that this gains more momentum, not only for the artists but for Bay Ridge and for Red White & Brew as well.”
So far, Liberty Mic has played host to dozens of local performers – from singers and songwriters to those with a knack for the spoken word and even some aspiring comics – at a time Bracale feels is crucial for both local artists and those everyday residents looking for a little mid-week getaway.
“I do see this as a weekly thing because people need that in their lives,” Bracale said, noting also the importance of supporting small businesses like Brew. “We’re so overwhelmed with the daily day-to-day grind of New York City that we need a weekly escape to see what our neighbors and maybe even tourists alike have to offer.”
Sullivan’s bandmate Rob DeLorenzo, who has taken center stage at both Wednesday night shows so far, agreed, stressing also the event’s importance in its hometown.
“I think there’s a stigma that Bay Ridge is a middle-aged town, full of cover bands and soccer moms,” he said, offering “big ups” to Bracale for not pressuring artists to fit a mold, and to the newer crowds the event has brought in for allowing artists to “do [their] thing.” “This open mic gets to showcase the original musicians/comedians scene that is striving to find its voice here.”
Still riding the high of its initial success, Bracale hopes to keep the Liberty Mic’s momentum going – all while enjoying the ride.
“I’m excited for the future of Liberty Mic Wednesdays at Red White & Brew,” he said.
Red White & Brew is located at 8910 Fifth Avenue.