Stockmans Lounge stuck its toe into the local open mic waters Friday night and managers found it to their liking.
The restaurant and bar recently opened in the space formerly occupied by Lear’s at 111 W Main St.
The new open mic night is called Final Friday and will take place the last Friday of each month through April. The debut event introduced new performers to the Wallowa County music scene as well as some tried and true local acts.
Unlike many open mics in bar/restaurants, the evening crowd remained engaged with the music while they still enjoyed the Stockmans culinary fare.
The energetic audience filled every seat in the joint, and to their credit, cheered every performance with equal vigor, regardless of the genre played.
Martin Doud, recently returned to the Wallowa Valley after a hiatus of several years, served as the show’s opening act. Doud reeled off four songs to raucous audience applause.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to perform,” he said. “It was my first time in front of an audience in about five years.”
Other performers included local stalwarts Jezebel’s Mother and Sam Warr. A surprising amount of new talent performed, including Doud, who was followed by Lynda Morrison, recently of Medford. Morrison, accompanied by Jay Connolly, wowed the audience with a stunning rendition of T-Bone Walker’s “Call it Stormy Monday” and several other blues staples.
One of the more unique performers of the evening was another recent Wallowa County transplant, Nicole McCutcheon. Her sassy brand of originals had the audience eating from her hand. She later said that she moved to Wallowa County just for the purpose of furthering her music career.
Unlike many local open mics that wane significantly after two hours, 9 p.m. saw still more hopefuls signing in to perform. In all, at least a dozen different musicians hit the stage, likely a local open mic record.
Stockmans owner Rachel Esquibel gave the Final Friday a two-thumbs-up endorsement.
“I consider Final Friday as an astonishing success,” she said. “The turnout was great, especially for our first event. It was beyond expectations — we were thrilled.”
Esquibel’s sons, Andrew Esquibel and Sam Warr, conspired with local musician Jordan Maslach for the open mic idea.
“One day I came in, and there was a poster on the window, and I said, ‘I guess we’re having an open mic,’” Rachel Esquibel said with a laugh.
Maslach served as the show’s emcee and also provided the PA equipment.
Stockmans is working toward hosting live bands in the future.
“It’s not going to happen right away though,” Esquibel said.
The venue also will host the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance’s 10th season of Tunesmith Night, a monthly showcase of original music.
The series opener takes place Saturday, Oct. 8 and features Tara K Howe, Tom Drake and Mike Mallory.