Farmer in the Fusion

By Ron Swarner on October 21, 2010


Coffeehouse audiences aren't known for their exuberance. At best, the dimly lit textbook folkie with a guitar earns a smattering of applause over the din of cappuccino steam and chatter.

However, at Billy Farmer's famous open mics, chatter isn't allowed.

"I always strive to create the best possible performance atmosphere at the open mics I host. Besides a green room for the artists, I instigate a "quite please" rule while the artists perform.

It's a rule the local guitarist held firm during his year run as host of the Mandolin Café's Sunday night open mic, which he had to recently abandon due to irreconcilable differences.

This Sunday, Farmer is back with a one-time open mic tester at Java Fusion on Sixth Avenue. He invites everyone from open-mike virgins to established artists testing out new material to drop by between 4-8 p.m.

I tossed Farmer a couple questions concerning his open mics.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: What were some of your favorite performances you witnessed during your time at the Mandolin?

BILLY FARMER: Many truly remarkable performances remain in my mind - moments that left the audience in a hush before their roared applause.

Zoe, a freshman at Wilson High School, sang a classical German number with scarce sincerity.  Caleb and Zach, college bound seniors from Lakes High, performed riveting, woven guitar/vocal duets. Doug McCoy, cut cleanly from Gene Autry cloth, timbering a pre-war ballad. Heidi and David, "The Folk Singers In Hell," performed cerebral-satirical originals. James Coates, Mary Farr, Joel Lively, Esera, Cassie, Sky Davenport, Flemming Behrend, Thomas Thornberry Smith, Dave Randall, Val Deveraux - oh, the list goes on and on. ...

VOLCANO: Will you miss your time at the Mandolin?

FARMER: Very much so. There were groups and passers-through, regulars and first timers. ... We had at least two new performers every week for 40 weeks straight. Get this - we had 1309 participants over 40 weeks and over 300 individuals in all. It was an amazingly successful event.

VOLCANO: Besides quiet policy and green room, what other aspects of the Mandolin open mics will you bring to Java Fusion?

FARMER: I will archive the performances for use on my Open Mic Radio show on KUPS. And, of course, it will be all ages.

VOLCANO: The Mandolin rocks the dessert world. What will Java Fusion serve?

FARMER: The specials for the day will be beef stew and mac & cheese plus fresh desserts.

VOLCANO: How are the acoustics inside the Fusion?

FARMER: Sweet!

VOLCANO: This will be a one-time event. If the turn out is good it might lead to more open mics at Java Fusion. The coffee shop is an alcohol-free venue (I said alcohol-free, not free alcohol, so calm down).

Sunday Open Mic

Sunday, Oct. 24, 4-8 p.m., no cover
Java Fusion
6820 Sixth Ave., Tacoma