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BRATTLEBORO — Kevin Parry has advice for performers at Open Mic besides "don't be nervous."

"Be prepared and be relaxed. Have fun," the longtime host of Open Mic in Brattleboro said. "Remember, people are there to hear you and they're going to like what you do. Also, try to entertain. It's not just a song you're singing or a guitar riff you're playing. You're delivering it, showing it to the audience. You're giving them a little bit of a show."

Parry called Open Mic a "good vehicle" for people to build their confidence and skills. First asked to host one in Keene, N.H., he did not like the idea at first. But he did it anyways on Sundays.

In 1991, Parry brought the event to Brattleboro on Thursdays. First, it was at the Mole's Eye Cafe then Adagio. Now, it's at The Marina Restaurant and he's celebrating 25 years of Open Mic in Brattleboro there on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Like any other Thursday night, participants can sign up for 20-minute slots from 7 to 10 p.m. The night might get extended so everyone gets a chance to play. A wine tasting is scheduled at the restaurant beforehand. More information can be found at kevinparrymusic.com.

Parry is inviting everyone out for the occasion.

"If you've every played at Open Mic in any of those years, we'd love to see what you're up to now and see what you're doing," he said.

Parry had run Open Mic at Mole's Eye from 1991 until 2007. After several changes in ownership, he moved it to Adagio. But the Brooks House fire in 2011 was "the end of that," Parry said.

"It just so happened that The Marina was getting ready to reopen," he said, referring to a period when the business had to close due to a fire. "I had known Dennis [Smith], the owner, for a while. I approached him and he said, 'Yeah. Let's do it here.' That's where it remains today."

The Marina has been home to Parry's Open Mic for five years now. He said he still sees a few musicians who came in the beginning.

"Most of them look like they haven't aged a bit. It's amazing sometimes how that's true," said Parry. A lot of the participants are "not really trying to be professional musicians," he said. "They do it as a side thing. They have that outlet and always like to have that outlet to play there."

Many Thursdays, Parry is joined by his bandmates in the Brattlyn Brothers. Joe Santry plays guitar like Parry and Ken Storey is on bass. All three lend their vocals and Scott Sizer will sit in with his trumpet. Sizer is in other bands and performs gigs with the Brattlyn Brothers if he's available.

"In fact, we all met at Adagio. That's how we started the Brattlyn Brothers," Parry said of the band named for Parry's being from Brattleboro, and Santry and Storey coming from Brooklyn, N.Y. Part of Parry's job is filling empty slots during Open Mic.

"There's supposed to be continuous music," he said. "Some nights, we hardly play. Other nights, we're up there for a long time."

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Lately, the band has been working on a lot of new stuff. More Bob Dylan songs were added to the repertoire after the songwriter won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year.

Parry said he has seen a lot of changes over the years. In the beginning, bars allowed smoking indoors.

"You would come out of the Mole's Eye reeking of smoke. Literally, I would come home after the Mole's Eye and hang up my clothes on the line to let them air out," Parry said. "There was very poor ventilation. It's hard to remember that's how things used to be."

When the smoking of cigarettes was first banned inside restaurants, Parry recalled half of Open Mic happening "informally" outside. Another change involves the end of the night.

"In the old days, we went until midnight at the Mole's Eye. When we moved up to Adagio, we stopped at 11. Now at The Marina, we stop at 10," Parry said. "People just don't stay out as late. They don't drink as heavily."

He acknowledged the growing use of technology, saying people have home theaters where they can stream a "high level of entertainment" in a setting safe to indulge in a drink or two.

"That has changed the face of not just Open Mic but live music in general. Certainly, there's less venues in this area for live music," Parry said. "Also, people are on their cell phones a lot."

Parry said he will gaze out from the stage sometimes and see half the audience or more on their phones. At home, he might look at Facebook and notice people posting about being at Open Mic.

He said he is still getting used to the way technology has changed social interaction. Upgrades in technology also make it easier to access music and instructional videos.

"That's a positive side of the tech boom," Parry said. "There's a lot of great music on the internet."

His favorite guitarists include Ry Cooder, J.J. Cale and David Lindley.

"Folky blues, finger style, slide. That's my phase right now," said Parry.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.


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