Nikki Rodriguez finds it hard to believe June 8 will celebrate the sixth anniversary of Words & Wine Open Mic, a gathering of poets, musicians, and comedians held every Wednesday night. "We started out in my living room on 27th and Biscayne," she remembers. "Everyone would crowd in and try to get a little of the air conditioning on them." That house has since been boarded up, but the open mic night has continued, moving from venue to venue around South Florida, and having found a comfortable home at Churchill's the past few months.
"It's really a community thing," Rodriguez says. "It's like a big party. Usually we have 12 to 20 acts. We put out the sign up sheet at 9 p.m. and try to get things going at ten, but because this is Miami things sometimes start later." The acts get seven minutes each and the feature performers get about a half hour. "Now that it's at Churchill's, there's usually a drum circle going on at the back patio along with vendors."
A poet herself, Rodriguez started the event back in 2010, but she says she rarely gets on stage any more, leaving the hosting duties to Rio Dios Mio and Michelangelo Chavarro. "Every now and then I still get to perform, but usually I'm dealing with things to make the night go smoothly. It went from 40 people in my living room that I all knew well to — at times — it's like a festival, and I look around and realize I don't know anybody."
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A couple of events are planned to honor Words & Wine's six years of free speech. This Wednesday, May 18, will feature Misa 'E Gallo, a thirteen-piece orchestra from Puerto Rico that Rodriguez describes as "Latin fusion mixing in jazz, hip-hop, and rock." The open mic's official birthday party will be on June 8 and will feature local rock bands Atajos and Symbiotic Simians, along with any other brave souls who wish to sing or recite words in front of a merry crowd of revelers.
Rodriguez will be happier than anyone when she watches her humble little gathering of creative minds reach another milestone. "Through the years it has changed, but it has always had a following. The amazing thing is it has all been word of mouth. We never once had to create a flyer."
Words & Wine with Misa E’ Gallo and Lady Love. 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Admission is free for over 21; $5 for under 21.