The first open mic night at which I ever performed was a Thursday night session at the Jacaranda in Liverpool in 1999. The floodgates opened and afterwards I began to frequent songwriter nights across Merseyside. Stamps Bistro in Crosby was a particular favourite. After graduating from university in 2006, I moved to Madrid to teach English and founded Open Mic Madrid – a songwriter’s night in the Spanish capital. Over the years I have performed at countless open mics in the UK and have also guested at songwriter’s nights in Germany, America and Argentina.
Be Quiet Night is a Neapolitan ‘Palco Libro’. From its inception in 2012 it was hosted at various venues across Campania. The format is simple: Performances start at 10PM sharp, the first eight performers play two songs apiece. The following ten performers play one song: 18 performers – 26 songs. There is cross collaboration, the organisers (well-known city songwriters and musicians) are friends and often back each other up (see photo above). Cover versions are generally frowned upon although traditional folk songs have been known to sometimes slip though the net. The key message of Be Quiet Night is: ‘Leave your ego at the door’. There is talent. There is a show. But this is not a talent show. The organisers are welcoming and supportive. The audience are expected to ‘Be Quiet’ and give the performers their full attention. This is not a place where shouting to your friends over an artist’s performance will be tolerated. Respect is the code. The first Be Quiet Night I attended was at CPA Live (Via Port’Alba) on 15 May 2015. The second was at Cellar Theory Live in Vico Acitillo.
Be Quiet Night is the brainchild of Neapolitan singer/songwriter Giovanni Block. Charismatic and talented, Giovanni is a first class entertainer. As well as the aforementioned co-founder, I had the pleasure of being exposed to a number of excellent songwriters including Massimo De Vita and Michelangelo Bencivenga (Blindur), The Isernia Brothers – Cesare (Cè) and Gaetano – and Micaela Tempesta.
In the last few years, Be Quiet Night has grown from an open mic to something approaching a cultural phenomenon in Naples. It now takes place each month at the historic Teatro Bellini in the centre of the city. Be Quiet Night was broadcast on Italian state TV channel Rai 2 on the 23rd August 2018.