This Friday, the Side Door Cafe will hit a 25-year milestone, making it one of the longest continuously-run “hootenanny” style open mic nights around.

Run by a dedicated set of volunteers in venue loaned to them by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, the open mic has been a space for music, poetry, reading, and more. Once held in the basement of the old UU Church before it burned down, and accessed by a side door (hence the name), the informal event has welcomed talent of all types for decades.

“It’s pretty informal, and it has also become a pretty good place for people to try out whatever they’re doing,” said Jerry Blodgett, who has volunteered with the cafe for years and helps manage it now.

The event, which runs once a month, has been a fundraiser for the church since its inception, mainly out of gratitude for being given the space. Volunteers have come and gone over the years, with some sticking it out for the entire 25 years.

“It’s hard work to keep it going, and people do drop off,” said Blodgett.

Despite that, a core group has kept things going effectively, allowing for anyone to stop by and perform. “We have music, poetry, someone else tells a story. We’re open to whoever wants to perform. Usually,” he said.

Usually, of course, doesn’t cover someone who wants to come yell obscenities for an hour.

“It’s a difficult problem, because we don’t want to be shutting anyone out. But if people are obnoxious or something, you try to do your best,” he said.

Acts range from people sitting down to read from a book, to a lawyer who spends time improvising on the piano. At least one “headline” act each month is guaranteed. The volunteers, being artists themselves, make sure that the feature performer doesn’t walk away empty handed.

“Any money that comes in … we split with the performer and the other half we give to the church,” said Blodgett.

This month the featured performer will be the Dave Bullard Band, also known as Shades of the Sixties. Led by local guitarist Dave Bullard, the band plays hits from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Bullard has been a regular at the Side Door Cafe, spending many years honing his guitar skills in the space. He said after touring the country writing songs, he’d always worked on them at the open mic.

“I’d come back and play the songs that I wrote,” he said.

Years back, he would play at the old location before it burned down. He estimates he leased the space at least 20 times for concerts, in addition to his playing at the open mic. It’s fitting that he’s been asked to come in and lend his musical talents for the anniversary.

“It’s going to be a pretty good-sized crowd for that place,” he said. “And you can’t beat the ticket price.”

Sign ups for the Side Door Cafe open mic start at 6:45 p.m., and performances begin at 7 p.m. The featured performance by Bullard will run at 8:30 p.m. The suggested donation is $8 at the door.

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