NORTH HOLLYWOOD — They start congregating outdoors a tiny storefront on a sun-blasted stretch of Laurel Canyon Boulevard each Monday round 6 p.m. Individuals with guitar instances, ukuleles, self-composed chord charts, the occasional Persian lap drum. Some sporting Swing Period finery, most simply casually dressed down.
Mondays have been Open Mic nights at Kulak’s Woodshed for nearly two many years. Thirty-plus acts often make the lottery to carry out one track every, beginning round eight p.m. at the recording/broadcast studio/stay venue. People are variously accompanied by the home band of volunteer veteran studio musicians, singing and enjoying on their very own or vocalizing to pre-recorded music tracks they’ve introduced alongside. There’s no cost, however for a $20 advised donation they will get skilled high quality video recordings of their performances, that are additionally streamed stay worldwide at www.concertwindow.com and preserved throughout YouTube.
Nearly all of gamers are the singer-songwriter varieties Paul Kulak established the Woodshed in 1999 to serve, however on any given night time you’ll additionally hear an eclectic assortment of rock bands, Sinatra-like crooners, ethnic music virtuosos and anything you possibly can think about might slot in a comfortable, eccentrically adorned live performance area.
And quite a bit you’d by no means think about.
“Anyone can play anything here,” stated Kulak, a self-described loner who controls three of his venue’s six Sony HD cameras – together with the one he famously hooked up to a skateboard that runs alongside the Woodshed’s higher south wall – from a cluttered management room behind the stage space all night time. “As long as it’s family friendly and you’re not scaring anybody. The Nazi sympathizer dude with a speech, we had to turn the mic off for him. [Otherwise] there are no standards whatsoever.”
Which makes for a couple of clunky performances on any given night time. However the overwhelming majority of amateurs, aspiring and completed professionals and guests from throughout the world who hit the Woodshed’s open mic put on nice exhibits.
“Anyone can play anything here. As long as it’s family friendly and you’re not scaring anybody.”
— Paul Kulak, proprietor of Kulak’s Woodshed
Like Roger Parham-Brown, a 76-year-old ebook author who’s been arising to Kulak’s from Echo Park each Monday (and second and fourth Tuesdays, when acts can get movies of two songs for $30) for nearly 4 years, and now has a reserving agent and two CDs of his haunting, tremolo renditions of nameless people classics similar to “The Banks of the Ohio.”
“It’s the community of musicians,” Parham-Brown stated attracts him to the Woodshed. “It’s like a church to me, it’s a family. Great musicians and we all support each other.”
One other common, watercolor artist and instructor Donna Barnes-Roberts who goes by the stage identify Donna Bea, has been making the trek from Altadena to North Hollywood to sing and play her ukulele for 4 years.
“The truth is, a lot of us spent our lives doing this, that and the other, and we didn’t get around to music,” she defined whereas sitting in an previous cozy chair by the Woodshed’s crammed, tumbledown bookcase, which together with previous album covers (Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots”), posters of Joan Baez and Spider-Man, an Elvis browsing rug, an Etch-a-Sketch, Christmas stockings and a whole lot of different gadgets comprise the Woodshed’s catch-as-catch-can décor. “I personally decided after I turned 60 to not let fear of ridicule keep me from doing something I wanted to do. It is very supportive here. Most of the people have been there, done that; they’ve looked stupid, sung stupid, worked stupid at some point in their lives. And the magic thing is, they keep coming back here – and you realize people get better.”
‘An international community’
Open Mic night time is simply as engaging to newcomers as it’s to the regulars, whether or not they’re a blue-eyed soul-belting boy who simply moved right here from Indiana, a vacationing Swedish songbird or a Japanese transplant who simply has to sing about how lonely L.A. can really feel for her.
Sansa Asylum and Andrew Scott, who’ve been courting for six months and have put collectively a retro act, have been enthusiastically awaiting their first gig at Kulak’s on a current Monday night time.
“We have a musical act where we do mostly standards from, like, the ‘20s to the ‘40s and ‘50s,” Burbank resident Asylum, sporting a purple, sparkly Jessica Rabbit gown, defined. “I also like to dig up really cool old vintage music that nobody does anymore and make my own chord charts.”
“When we’re ready to put up something, we’ll have it,” Scott stated of the video deal that attracted them to the Woodshed. “Since this is Los Angeles, other variety shows are very booked, so it’s nice to have something like this to come do on a Monday night.”
“It’s an amazing community resource that they keep up here with very little money,” Asylum added.
Certainly, the Woodshed is actually a subsistence enterprise. There’s no door cost, drinks or meals – bottled water and cookies can be had for greenback donations – and no door cost if you’d like to simply come and pay attention to Monday’s Open Mic. The room accommodates about 49, with a mismatched assortment of chairs, sofas and a cover mattress that would maintain about 4. A $10 donation is usually recommended, however like every part else on Open Mic night time, not written in stone.
“The truth is, a lot of us spent our lives doing this, that and the other, and we didn’t get around to music. “I personally decided after I turned 60 to not let fear of ridicule keep me from doing something I wanted to do. It is very supportive here.”
— Donna Barnes-Roberts, who goes by the stage identify Donna Bea
Kulak, who describes himself as a former delinquent and failed singer-songwriter, hates to have to cost bands to lease the place on different nights of the week, however it’s the solely approach he’s been in a position to maintain it going.
“It became way more popular than I ever expected,” Kulak admitted, “but I was trapped by my own original vision, which was I wanted a place where singer-songwriters could go and they didn’t feel like they did at other venues, where they were essentially being used as bait to sell sandwiches and beer and things like that. I wanted them to know that they could just come here and do what they wanted and feel welcome, and not have to worry about the pressures of capitalism.”
Whereas that idea has attracted huge names comparable to Jackson Browne, Phil Everly and The Byrds’ Chris Hillman to the Woodshed over the years (and although Kulak isn’t 100 % sure, he’s heard the likes of Katy Perry and Jason Mraz performed by means of his joint on their means to stardom), he’s extra partial to viewing his place as a house for mothers who deferred their music-making goals whereas elevating their households or recovering addicts to get again on their performing ft in a liquor-free surroundings.
And each type of artistic dreamer in between. A protected area, however with a world attain.
“All open mics are a community, but this open mic is an international community because of the online presence that we have,” famous Jimi Yamagishi, 61, who is available in from Alhambra each Monday to report certainly one of the 1,000 songs he’s written and hosts the Woodshed’s Twofer Tuesdays. “Like tonight, for example, I know for a fact that I’ll be having friends from China watching. I do endorsement deals and they tuned-in to see me using the guitar special effects pedals that they make, and they’ve become fans of the show because it’s American music like you could never get anywhere else.”
Kulak relies upon on volunteers like Yamagishi to hold the Woodshed going. They appear to really feel greater than compensated for his or her efforts.
“It’s great work to showcase and support artists,” stated 21-year-old Dylan Gershon of Sherman Oaks, who’s been working the Woodshed’s different three cameras, together with the central growth crane, for two years. “It also gives them a chance to see my talents, and maybe we can collaborate in the future.”
A movie scholar at Santa Monica School, Gershon stated he’s honed invaluable expertise in lighting, publicity, digital camera velocity and timing and reside digital camera modifying at the Woodshed.
The venue’s longest volunteer, 30-year-old Eric Estes of Tarzana, has been managing the entrance of the home – and ensuring the rest room has rest room paper – for six years.
“The first time that I came in here, there was just something about this place that resonated somehow,” stated Estes, who additionally sings and performs bass. “I love it. There’s no other place that’s like this in L.A., and I would even wager to say that there are very few places like this anywhere else. Places like this, and art itself, should be cherished. There’s a lack of this kind of stuff in most communities, and to be an integral part of this makes you feel nice.”
For 79-year-old John Cartwright, Harry Belafonte’s retired bass participant and tour supervisor for such acts as Luther Vandross and Cassandra Wilson, anchoring the rotating home band Monday nights for the previous 10 years has been an expertise like no different in his lengthy, distinguished profession.
“It’s the greatest place I’ve ever seen in life, and I’ve been fortunate to travel around the world three times,” Cartwright stated. “It’s the coolest and the neatest thing I do know of for younger singer-songwriters.
“Aside from the fact that I get the chance to keep what we call our chops together, I like to think that I’m passing on whatever knowledge I can, if they can use it,” the Sherman Oaks resident continued about his volunteer backup gigging. “And what can I say about Paul? Who, for 20 years, would do something like this unless he just loved it, man? All kinds of people have come by here wanting to get involved in making this place a commercial venture, but he refuses to do that.”
Kulak stated there have been occasions when he’s virtually had to determine between shuttering the Woodshed or dropping the small house he lives in close by. It’s by no means come to that, but when it does we will in all probability predict which selection he’ll make.
“A guy my age should have grownup kids that are going to college and should have a retirement account,” the never-married Kulak identified. “We’re continually behind, and it doesn’t appear to be it’s ever going to change. However I don’t know what else to do with my life. I want some semblance of a function.
“I’m still holding out hope that I can someday find a way to sustain this venue without being a burden on the artists,” he stated, purposefully.
For extra info, go to http://kulakswoodshed.com/.