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The Man Behind the Mic

The patriarch of the local amateur music scene gives heart, soul and cash to keep the mics open

By Andrew X. Pham

HOST OF two weekly open-mic venues (Mondays at Red Rock Cafe, Thursdays at Cuppa Joe, both in Mountain View), P.J. is an all-around good guy and something of a patriarch of the Mountain View amateur music scene. A lifelong musician, he gives each performer the needed pats on the back and insightful tips about his/her act. P.J. sees a circle of musicians forming, "and it's widening. The amateur music scene has really changed in the last year--it's gone up a notch. The open-mic era has arrived."

P.J. has a goal: "I want to see every coffeehouse in the South Bay have at least one open-mic night a week: music, poetry, comedy, whatever. There's a pull between artists. You can feel that. We got that. People want to perform and people want to be entertained."

When asked if it is difficult volunteering three to four nights, some 20 hours, every week for over a year now, he sighs, opens his mouth, closes it. Then says, "Yeah, but the point is that the kids get to play. Isn't it?"

Open mic has its price, and the toll is usually paid by the volunteers who manage it. Already P.J. and his partner Khoi Huynh, who donates most of the equipment and helps out when he can, have burnt up over $600 of sound equipment in the past year while hosting open mics for more than a thousand people. The money comes out of their own pockets.

P.J., Khoi, Christopher Stanton, Dave Metzgar, Kevin Spritzer and David Perasso are all volunteers. Perasso has been hosting open mics, once or twice a month, in the South Bay for more than three years. Spritzer, Stanton and Metzgar have contributed significantly as well. Together, they're the good old boys who keep the beat in the valley.

For them, open mic has its rewards as well.

"It's a real family," says Perasso. "It's a real important place for beginning musicians to get better. We do it for the camaraderie. Nobody is getting anything out of it except friendship and music. I can't see a time when I'll be tired of it because it's always exciting, and you always meet new, interesting, talented people."

When P.J. learns that a patient from a local mental institution took an hour-long bus ride to play at his open mic (an experience that the patient reportedly enjoyed tremendously), he says with a catch in his voice, "What more satisfaction can a guy get, just knowing that all the hours you put in really helped someone who needed it."

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From the October 10-16, 1996 issue of Metro

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