Metropolis Hosts Open Mic Nights for Performers to Spill the Beans

Paige Twenter | The PhoenixMetropolis Coffee Company has several new options for coffee drinkers to get in the holiday spirit.

After a short pandemic-induced hiatus, Metropolis Coffee Company is brewing up events to welcome back the surrounding diverse community, including LGBTQ+ artists. 

The coffee shop (1039 W. Granville Ave.) is hosting its second open mic night — déja brew, anyone? — Wednesday, Nov. 17 from 5-7 p.m.

After Metropolis closed in February because of COVID-19, the café is rising and grinding again with its local outreach. 

Shift lead and organizer Jamie Barker, who uses they/them pronouns, said being a barista at a coffee hotspot a block south of campus has allowed them to engage with the local college. Barker hopes to facilitate an inclusive  “community culture.”

“Since everyone’s back in class [and] in person again, I think it’s a good time to engage in the community and be a part of it,” Barker, 30, said.

Barker emphasized the importance of inclusivity at Metropolis — especially at their monthly open mic nights and book readings. They strive to make Metropolis a safe haven for everyone, especially those who identify as queer and trans, according to Barker.

Barker, who’s from Nashville, said they want to bring their hometown’s performance culture to the Edgewater scene. In the past, they planned open mic nights at antique stores and house shows. As a host, Barker is determined to spice up their shows with a variety of comedy, musical performances and creative writing. 

Courtesy of Jamie Barker Metropolis Coffee Company is hosting monthly open mic nights starting Nov. 17.

General manager Ira Rose expressed his hopes to revert to original, pre-pandemic plans: “Being a part of the community has always been at the core of who Metropolis is and was.” 

Because the closest Starbucks closes at 3 p.m. and the other local coffee shop, Ellipsis Coffeehouse, closes at 1 p.m., Metropolis hopes to engage in Loyola’s nightlife scene. They also want to welcome Edgewater and Rogers Park neighbors.

Rather than hosting a music night, Barker planned a variety show to help audience members stay engaged, they said.

At last month’s open mic night, one of the 16 performers brought a homemade “accordion from hell” where he would play the instrument along with pre-recorded human screams.

“Everyone in the cafe was screaming along to it,” Barker said. “It was interesting just to have a room full of people screaming. That was pretty fun.”

Comedians, musicians and artists alike can sign up at 4 p.m. before the 20 slots are filled. For those who can’t make this month’s event, the next open mic night is Dec. 15.

Metropolis also hosts monthly poetry readings, called “An Inconvenient Hour: Chicago’s Most Awkwardly Timed Reading Series,” where writers share their latest work. Going forward, Barker hopes to book any acts that are “especially talented or entertaining,” such as folk music shows or comedy nights.

With caffeine-addicted students back on campus after a year of Zoom classes, the coffee shop is eager to give a shot to artists.

“Being able to have people back in the space laughing and enjoying music from local artists and comedy and poetry means a lot to us,” Rose, 29, said. “But it also means a lot to the community to be slightly normal again.”

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