Located in the heart of downtown Johnson City, the Watauga Brewing Company has built a close relation with locals in the three years they have been open. By being a space for creative output and showcasing, the brewery has been a stage for many to release their work and talent into the world.
On Feb. 8 from 7 to 8 p.m., the Watauga Brewing Company held their Open Mic event where attendees could show their talent in front of the bar crowd. The participants were able to perform storytelling, singing, dancing and many more acts, as there were no requirements to be a performer.
Devin Hooven is the music coordinator at Watauga Brewery as well as the host of the Open Mic event hosted every Wednesday. Hooven books bands, solos artists and others as well as making an open application available at the brewery entrance for anyone to sign up and perform.
Having only started this project approximately three months ago, the brewery has built a name for itself supporting local artists and giving everyone a chance to showcase their talent. The brewery offers an inside bar, a restaurant and a sky bar, which is only open on days with suitable weather. The show is held on the first floor where the indoor bar is located.
“It’s a very communal thing,” said Hooven. “Everyone is here to support each other and be about the arts and community.”
By bringing together the creative scene in Johnson City, Hooven welcomes all participants to perform at the brewery free of cost. Before working at Watauga, Hooven ran a bar and music venue in Kingsport, Tenn., where they held an open mic stage. After relocating to the Watauga Brewery, he decided to bring the idea with him.
“I really wanted an open mic here [Johnson City],” said Hooven. “Somewhere for people to come and express any art that they have whether it be singing, poetry, stand-up comedy, even to beatboxing.”
All forms of art are invited to be displayed at the brewery’s show. Hooven encouraged everyone to take a chance and come out to display their hobbies, expressing that there is no limit or requirement and no talent unworthy of a stage.
At the event, attendees consisted of locals of all ages including East Tennessee State University students Jamie Chavez and Ellaine Leeth. Both being from Knoxville, Tenn., their knowledge of Appalachian-based hobbies started out as limited, but after attending Watauga’s Open Mic Night, they got to have a taste of the sounds of the mountains.
As they listened, they picked out many details from the music that was showcased. One performer stood out the most to them by telling a story with his guitar. Storytelling is something Chavez and Leeth have only heard a little of and mixed in with the folk-taste of the Appalachian guitar style, they found the showcase eye-opening and culturally enriching.
“Since I’m not from here, it was really interesting to see the different types of music people played.” Chavez said.
Being away from home in her college career, Chavez is glad there are places like the brewery where she can experience and learn about what Johnson City has to offer. Similarly, this event was also Leeth’s first form of exposure to music while in the Appalachia region. She had learned of it through courses while at university, but seeing the authentic performance of local artists was incomparable to material that can be taught in a classroom, she mentioned.
“I’ve never been to an open mic night [here] before,” Leeth said. “It’s really fascinating to see locals come out and get together.”
The brewery’s Open Mic Night offers upcoming artists a way to exhibit their talents and gain opportunities to further their career. Whether it is to build confidence or put on a show for attendees to tune in while dining, the Watauga Brewery offers a night full of entertainment every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m.
First photo taken by Javiera Cotapos, second photo taken by Watauga Brewery.