Above a Burger Joint, the Neighborhood’s Newest Open Mic

open mic1Opening of Unplugged Mondays at Bareburger’s Second Floor lounge

The founder of the popular spoken-word series, The Inspired Word, is up to something new. Last week, Mike Geffner launched an open-mic night for up-and-coming musicians at Bareburger’s East Village location.

So how will Unplugged Mondays hold its own against the well established Monday-night open mics at Sidewalk Café and Nuyorican Poets Café? First off, by cultivating a sense of camaraderie. “Other series you get up, get off, and go home,” said Mr. Geffner. “At my series you get up, get off, and hang out. We’re a real family, a community,” he said.

During the launch of the series last Monday, a total of nine artists performed in front of the second-floor picture window that looks out over the corner of Fifth Street and Second Avenue. (Those signing up for the open mic pay a $10 cover and featured artists get a cut of the amount charged at the door.) One of them, Formerly Fone, transcended the boundaries between spoken word and hip-hop: she delivered symbolic, heart-felt euphemisms enveloped in old-school r&b beats. Another artist sang a 15th-century a capella piece, “O Death!”

open mic5 Artist Keon Torres

Mr. Geffner, a native of Queens, touted the diversity of his performers. “It’s such a New York experience to be walking by and to see people performing… there’s hip-hop, jazzy, folk, a little bit of everything. The Inspired Word is very much a rainbow coalition.”

You can expect a similarly eclectic array of acts every Monday at 7 p.m.: among those who’ve graced the stage at The Inspired Word are Anwar Robinson, an “American Idol” finalist, and Sylvana Joyce, who, with her backing band The Moments, was recognized by MTV’s Needle in the Haystack program.

The opportunity to host a spoken-word series fell into Mr. Geffner’s lap about three years ago. At the time, he was a freelance journalist who had written for the Village Voice. “When the owner of this vegan restaurant asked me to host a poetry slam for him, he told me I was the only writer he knew,” he said. The restaurant, Tierra Xana, has since closed but the series has moved on to venues like Le Poisson Rouge, Funkadelic Studios, and most recently, Bareburger on Tuesday nights.

Mr. Geffner doesn’t plan on stopping here. He said MTV will feature an artist from the series on their show “Washington Heights,” and the Style network is filming a reality show about The Inspired Word that will be piloted sometime in early May.