A mix between John Wayne and pre-1965’s Bob Dylan
There is a very special place in my heart for this old place off of Greenwood, near downtown Bend, Oregon. The M & J Tavern has been around for seemingly-ever and is a well-known local’s live music venue in Bend. It’s the place where local’s parents and grandparents hung out for a cold beer or shot of their favorite spirit. The place is known for its John Wayne and Oregon Ducks decor and its great collection of fine tequilla.
The staff is incredible and they are profound local music supporters. The venue is a modest place for humble musicians. It’s has a steady stream of music people all night long during its open mic and live music nights.
My time playing at the M & J Tavern started around 2009 at the newly established Wednesday Open Mic hosted by Mike. Back then I was a “newb,” still am but then more of a stage-fright-just-learning-my-voice newb. Open mics start up at 7pm with a sign up list at the soundboard near the front window.
Like most open mics, it’s smart to get there early to get your name on the list. Some nights it seems like everyone at the tavern is a musician wanting to play with a four song max and others nights its filled with locals with just a few artists to play as long as they want. You never know until the night rolls on so having your name in the mix is a good guarantee you’ll be able to play.
Live Music Nights
Their live music nights are Tuesday and Saturday. They have a steady schedule of free shows consisting mainly of local artists and they are usually are 2-3 months out on booking. The best way to get into this rotation is to show up to the open mic and strut your stuff. On busy nights you might want to tell the open mic coordinator to listen to your set and see if you are a good fit for the venue during their live music nights.
There isn’t a stage but there is room enough at the front of room to stage a full band. The ceilings are low and if their isn’t a big crowd it’s easy to get too-loud, especially with drums. The sound is done by the artists and they only have mic stands, an old Yamaha board and two old PA speakers. I usually bring a small PA so I can have a monitor. People are usually playing pool or socializing at the tables and bar. Some people are doing their laundry that’s connected to the tavern. (On the road? You can leave with clean underwear LOL).
Compensation is a bar tab and tips. You work out the bar tab details before the show, the less you drink the more you make and the better you appeal to the audience the more tips. On that note, I usually advertise the show stating it’s free but a “$5 donation is recommended,” this prompts people to bring some cash with them.
This is a great venue for singer/songwriters in the folk rock genre. Find a sensible volume level and play your best and you’ll walk out with a nice bucket of tips.