Not long ago, Tuesday nights at Mickey's Tavern featured a rotation of local singer-songwriters, including Josh Harty, Blake Thomas, Robby Schiller and Jeremiah Nelson. It was enjoyable but never jarring, except perhaps the time Schiller roused the crowd into a National Anthem sing-along.
But since last summer, Tuesdays at Mickey's have changed from a productive songwriters'-workshop affair to an unpredictable sampling of local and regional music that somehow manages to jibe with the casual neighborhood-bar feel.
The first Tuesday of the year, at least, was a surprise for anyone who hadn't stopped in for a while. Lovely Socialite Mrs. Thomas W. Phipps had its six members crammed into what you can charitably call a performance space between the ATM and the bar, playing long-form instrumentals that mixed abrasive funk, jazz and post-rock theatrics. At the very least, member Brian Grimm must be the only person who's ever wielded a Chinese stringed instrument called a pipa at Mickey's. (The band also began recording an album this past weekend.)
And last month, singer-songwriter Dietrich Gosser hosted a four-part Tuesday series. One installment featured Gosser's friend, Chicagoan Zach Parker, playing stirring acoustic covers that ranged from Depeche Mode's "Policy of Truth" to the Magnetic Fields' "Papa was a Rodeo."
Nelson credits Mickey's with letting bookers and musicians take chances. "You can see Wife, Wolf Eyes and Tani Diakite in the same week" at Mickey's, he points out, referring to a local metal band, a famously brutal noise act, and a local West African transplant, respectively.
Singer-songwriter Blake Thomas' move to Minneapolis last year "kind of prompted the change-up," says Nelson, who still books Mickey's Tuesday shows and promotes it on Facebook. "I think some folks miss the old Honky Tonk Tuesdays, but it's just not possible to replace Blake," he says, referencing a previous series at Mickey's. "I guess I've just been trying different things out and it seems to be working."
Nelson says the variety and weirdness should extend well into 2012. He'd like to have Gosser host more shows and perhaps some "blogger-curated stuff."
This Tuesday chaos continues on January 10 with local songwriters Kyle Motor (of The Motorz, The God Damns, and The August Teens) and Aaron Scholz, who say they plan to play a mix of covers, originals and duets. Up next are The Melon Heads and Connor La Mue on Jan. 17; Ian Olivera on Jan. 24; and Matt Joyce and Page Foster on Jan. 31.
Mickey's shows start around 10:30 p.m. There is no cover, and a pitcher is passed around for band donations.