“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something new.” — Frank Zappa.

One of the most human of pleasures is to experience an artistic endeavor in person: that is, to meet a work of art head-on – to experience it firsthand with one’s senses. Viewing an original painting is more satisfying than seeing it in a book; feeling a handmade piece of pottery is better than hearing about it; experiencing the aroma and taste of a perfect slice of cheesecake as it complements a cup of hot coffee beats reading a description of it.

Music works the same way. An LP, CD or mp3 can be great, but think of how the senses engage when you hear a new song or favorite work performed live. Imagine back to music you’ve enjoyed at concert halls, jazz clubs, theaters or rock concerts.

Cadillac Pizza Pub hosts Open Mic nights on Thursdays.

Cadillac Pizza Pub hosts Open Mic nights on Thursdays.

One of the best places in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to experience live music is in McKinney. Walk around the downtown square in the early evening. You’ll see people unloading guitar cases and musical equipment from cars and vans, then disappearing into pubs and restaurants. Stay a bit later and you’ll soon hear music drifting through the streets.

McKinney’s evolving music scene includes regularly scheduled singer-songwriter events, professional live performances and open mic nights. Owners and managers go the extra mile to provide quality musical entertainment for their customers while at the same time supporting artists with opportunities to perform.

 

Customers often become performers at open mic nights; up-and-coming musicians ready to hone their skill and share their talents. Eric Erickson is the coordinator of Thursday’s open mic nights at Spoons Café. Erickson began hosting the evening about three years ago. As is typical of open mic nights, Erickson joins his own band onstage as a sort of “warm-up” while customers arrive and relax with food and drinks.

Dawgs and Hawgs

Dawgs and Hawgs

“We’re thrilled to host anyone who wants to come and play,” says Eric. “We talk with the musicians and work together to line up the evening’s schedule. We have everything from solo singer/songwriters to full bands. We love to accompany the musicians when they’d like, but they’re welcome to go on their own, too.”

It’s a convivial, friendly environment at Spoons. Erickson is thrilled with the success of the Café’s open mic night, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday evening. “It really all comes back to Karen,” he says, referring to Spoons owner Karen Klassen. “She is supportive of all types of art in McKinney and especially loves having live music in her restaurant. About a year ago she had a new stage built and put in a top class sound system for the musicians to use. I’ve played music all over DFW, and this is one of the finest places of all.”

The other hotspot for open mic nights is Cadillac Pizza Pub, located a moment’s walk from Spoons Café. Its open mic coordinator is longtime fixture on the McKinney music scene, Buzz Andrews, who alternates weekly duties with Mike Sena. Cadillac’s open mic night is also held on Thursday but it begins a little later, at 8 p. m. Andrews plays a couple of songs with his band to get things going, and other musicians begin joining in about 8:45 p.m. Children are always welcome at Cadillac Pizza Pub, but the audience on open mic nights tends to be mostly adult and one can expect to hear upbeat, louder, rocking music – electric guitars, powerful sax solos, etc.

“McKinney has become a North Dallas hotspot in the last few years. Other downtown areas can’t hold a candle to it. It used to be Lower Greenville; now you’ll find some of the best musicians from there who want to play here,” says Andrews. He’s excited about the musicians who appear at open mic, saying, “Cadillac really is the ‘Cadillac’ of open mics. We get people from Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth – all over – who come to play.” He agrees with Erickson about area musicians: “The talent here is tremendous. We’re very fortunate.”

 

When asked how McKinney came to be a trendy live music spot, Andrews explains, “Two things: the people in this community genuinely support it, and owners of restaurants and other venues put a lot of time and effort into making it a great place to play.” He named Cadillac Pizza Pub CEO Preston Lancaster as the epitome of one who goes the extra mile to make sure customers are entertained and that venues are welcoming to musicians.

Snug on the Square is always a surprise — sometimes you'll be treated to music at breakfast and sometimes at lunch.

Snug on the Square is always a surprise — sometimes you'll be treated to music at breakfast and sometimes at lunch.

Snug on the Square, a creative coffeehouse and café, features a small stage nestled in the front window. Snug hosts singers/ songwriters ready to showcase their music with others. Owner Sandra Nichols jokes, “I’m always impressed with the talent that performs here. We have friendly baristas and make delicious sandwiches but we know our customers don’t want to hear us sing so we welcome others to do that instead.”

But Nichols’ support of the arts doesn’t end there. Leading you to their upstairs loft, their walls are lined with unique handmade, upcycled creations made By local artists.

Also in Downtown McKinney, but a slightly different atmosphere, Dawgs and Hawgs attracts an eclectic mix of customers and schedules their open mics on Thursday evenings. Previously an old garage, their bar and music scene bustles with energy that motorcycle enthusiasts enjoy after they park their hawg in McKinney’s largest outdoor patio.

Hank's Texas Grill, located on the northbound service road of 75, is a live music venue and eatery. They feature open mic nights every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. and is hosted by Tyler Rogers. Just sign the sheet on the stage and wait your turn.

Whether you’d like to relax and enjoy hearing what the local music scene has to offer or contribute to its sound – right onstage! – there is a place for you. Enjoy the music!

 

About the author: Christopher Foster is a writer/photographer. As a teenager he played sax and guitar in bands with a musician featured in this story, Eric Erickson. He is grateful to McKinney Magazine for providing an opportunity to work with Eric once again.