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OCT 22 - OCT 29, 2015

What Makes an Open Mic Special?

Tim Weir

OCT 22, 2015

It starts with a great host. Featuring Peg Silvestri, Open Mic Host at the Nifty Fifty Bar.

In visits to over 40 open mics in Western and Central New York, one thing is clear: to have a successful open mic, it starts with a good host. It is an absolute essential to have a great open mic. This is my review of a visit to the Nifty Fifty Bar Open Mic on October 15, 2015.


The Nifty Fifty Bar Open Mic, Thursdays at 8:00pm at 7710 Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls- is  one of these great open mics. According to, it is the second highest rated open mic in the area. Although there are many positives that make this open mic so good, the success is due in large part to Peg Silvestri- open mic host- singersongwriter- guitarist- greeter and public relations machine, all rolled into one.


An Open Mic is different from karaoke. An open mic typically does NOT use a song with the voice track removed like a Karaoke bar does. Instead, all the accompaniment is live. This is what makes an open mic special- you never know what is going to happen next. You never know when someone will take the stage and blow your mind Often there are solo artists, as well as duos and trios who come and perform. Some solo artists performed with or without additional accompaniment were Burt Royce, Bruce Shaffstall, Andrea Zacharella and Al Whirl. Bands come here as well, as the

stage setup is ideal for bands as well. For example, part of the Heenan Brothers Band played on stage at this open mic, including Rick Heenan, Rick Bauer and Ken Johnson.


The Nifty Fifty Bar open mic does have musicians that make up what might be thought of as a “house band”: this would be a group of musicians there that are ready and willing to accompany an artist, if the artist so chooses. For example, it is not uncommon to see accompaniment at the Nifty Fifty Bar from Dave Draper-drums, Ken Johnson-bass guitar, Tim Andrews-keyboard; and Justin and Rob also on drums or percussion.


But its starts with Peg Silvestri, the remarkable host; or as I like to think of her, the “First Lady” of the open mic in the Niagara Region. A folk-singer by preference, she attracts a wide variety of musicians and singers and fans of both to this facility every Thursday.


Peggy comes from a family of talented singers and is the youngest of 6 kids. In the past she was known for her legendary music parties she hosted at her home. It wasn’t long before she ventured out to Karaoke bars and open mics and began to share her love for music with other people. Soon she was playing in local establishments with bands and as a solo artist.


Now, at the Nifty Fifty Bar, Peggy has been instrumental in establishing a very friendly environment to make all who come to the open mic night feel right at home. Because she has such a passion and skill for harmonies, she attracts many others who share her passion for vocals. On a given open mic night at the Nifty Fifty, there may be 10 people who can create harmonies on the spot for a performer.


In my travels looking for open mics everywhere I go in Western and Central New York, this open mic is without peer when it comes to vocals.


Some of the incredible people that added harmony so beautifully on my last visit were Laurie Jircitano

and Kim Kargatis, Kathy and Sue Achilli and Burt Royce.


This is often the missing ingredient at many open mics- good vocals. The average person that

comes to the Nifty Fifty Bar can deliver the song, not just make noise into the mic. Even professional

bands that have seem to have high reputations may not always be able to deliver a tune. For this reason,

I will always make an effort to attend this open mic.


Frequently, my favorite part of the open michere is when Peggy, Lauri Jircitano and Kim Kargatis

collaborate on vocals to sing a simple song like: “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”. The harmonies and the blend of the voices is so pure and beautiful, it says a great deal about how great the chemistry is between these three ladies, and how well they work together.


What also helps is that acoustics of the Nifty Fifty Bar are perfect for this open mic, which has a very folk-acoustic slant to it most of the time. The low ceiling lined with tin and the raised stage gives it a “sort of natural self-amplification”, as harmonica player Ned Perlman would put it.


The hope is that the Nifty Fifty Bar can become a place where amateurs will always be able to continue improving on their craft, but also be a spot where new performers can be “discovered”. The Niagara Region is starting to get a great reputation for superb players coming from this area, and some already think of this area as a sort of “Little Nashville”.


The Nifty Fifty Bar could be an ideal place to further develop that.


This is also evidenced by the fact that there are almost 50 open mics in the area, which is several times more than what most bigger populated markets have. So this open mic is looking for talent to “discover”. Samantha Sugarman...Lenny Revell... two names that quickly come to mind ... are you listening?


If you like good music, want to be surprised by good local talent, or have a musical talent you would like to share, please stop on by... Nifty Fifty Bar, 7710 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, 8 to 11 PM every Thursday. See you there!

Tim Weir maintains the website, and has written articles for other publications such as, the Palladium Times in Oswego, NY, and the Citizen in Auburn, NY.







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