Mike Gallant – affectionately known as Mikey G – is a blue-collar music man.
By day, he sells guitars and equipment and teaches guitar at Strings & Things Music. By night, he dominates the open mic and live music scene all over the Live Free or Die state.
“I do about 20 gigs a month,” Gallant said from the downtown music shop last week. “Tons of open mics.”
Gallant racks up quite a few miles in his work as a gigging musician. He regularly plays at Hill Top Pizzeria in Epsom, Mama McDonough’s in Hillsboro, Sunset Grill in Campton and the Rusty Moose in Alton. Locally, you can find him running open mic night at Tandy’s every Tuesday or The Eagles Club whenever he gets the chance. He’s also about to start playing Sundays at Chen Yang Li in Bow.
It’s a hectic and nomadic lifestyle, but it’s all Gallant has ever really known.
“Back when Penuche’s was Thums, I was sneaking in underage and heard there were open mics,” he said of his first brush with the New Hampshire music scene some three decades ago (long before ID scrutiny was beefed up, one would imagine). “I went down, and the guy running it didn’t show up.”
After two consecutive weeks of the organizer not showing up to get the show running, Gallant took charge and started running it himself.
“We worked it up to be the busiest night at Thums,” he said.
He’s been active in the scene ever since.
His band, Trainwreck, does a lot of Texas blues – Stevie Ray Vaughan kind of stuff – but he doesn’t gig with the full band too often these days.
“The jam band stuff seems to be taking over,” he said.
That means he has plenty of time for his solo work. Whether it’s an open mic night or just a traditional solo performance, Mikey G stays pretty busy singing and playing for crowds. And he’s plenty comfortable going it alone.
“I sing and play all by my onesies,” he said. “I like open mic because you get people up who might never get up.”
The open mic format benefits Gallant in his role as an instructor at Strings & Things. Since he hosts and runs a lot of the open mic nights, he can secure a spot for a student who’s thinking about playing out but maybe doesn’t know how to go about it. The beauty of open mics, Gallant said, is that if someone just wants to play one or two songs and be done forever, they can. If they want to make it a regular thing and use it to gain live playing experience, they can do that, too.
The open mic scene – at least at Tandy’s – is ever expanding. Though you might think of one person with an acoustic guitar when you think of open mic, Gallant said all types are welcome and represented.
“Lately we’ve had rappers, comedians,” Gallant said. “One minute you’ve got someone singing Hank Williams, then you’ve got Primoe doing rap.”
Check out Mikey G at open mic night at Tandy’s every Tuesday from 8 to 11 p.m. There’s never a cover charge.