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Blue Dragon's open mic hits the lottery

Open mic night at the Blue Dragon CafÇ survived a recent make-over and is still one of the city's best venues for amateur music.

Dana Todd, head of the sound engineering team that hosts the coffee shop's Wednesday night open mic, made some quick changes before last week's show that will be permanent features of the program. Todd and co-host Ross Rademacher will now rely on a "blind drawing lottery" system to determine the evening's roster.

"Open mics nationwide use a lottery," Todd said. "It just took us to get big enough to need one, too."

When Todd took over as master of ceremonies for the Blue Dragon's open mic night a year ago, an average of seven performers signed up each night. Today, the performance roster must accommodate at least 18 musicians, poets, comedians and magicians.

"We're just trying to make things fair," Todd said.

The lottery, which made its debut Wednesday along with an extra hour added to the beginning of the program, consists of two drawings - one at 6:30 p.m. and the other at 9 p.m. After the first name is drawn, each performer is responsible for drawing the name of the following entertainer. To further capitalize on the program's new card-game nature, two wild cards are put in the pot and are played in the event of a vanishing performer - a common open mic phenomenon. The bottom line: nine performers for two sets, plus four wild cards equals 22 total chances to play.

The benefits of the lottery system for a brimming open mic roster are obvious. Performers no longer have the option of signing up in advance, so more people, especially newcomers, have a better chance to play. Drawing names also dodges the common problem of performers only showing up for their set. With the lottery, people stick around.

"If we call your name and you're not there, we draw again," Todd said.

Because a name cannot be registered in both sets and each name only enters the pot once, the chances of getting drawn are, as with most lotteries, slim.

Kristin Tikkanen, producer for Public Access Channel 27, is currently working on her video series "Out to Play," which features open mic performers. Two Blue Dragon performances will run this month, one Sunday and the other April 22, both at 8 p.m. Blue Dragon's open mic night is every Wednesday at 7 p.m., and sign-ups for the drawings occur before each set at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. For more information call the Blue Dragon, 1517 Girard Blvd., at 268-5159.

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