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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

B-N transplant Bruce Moon creates community with a microphone and a guitar

A man and woman sing together as onlookers focus attentively on them.
Lauren Warnecke
Nicole Montgomery and Joshua Allen met Bruce Moon through the Peoria open mic circuit and decided to play a new audience at Crafted for Moon's bimonthly open mic night. Derek Thorp, in a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, also played a set of original songs.

There is a new open mic night in town — at Crafted in Bloomington and specifically for singer/songwriters with something to say.

Host Bruce Moon is a transplant to Bloomington-Normal. He and his wife arrived last July, moving from the Chicago suburbs to be closer to their daughter and three grandchildren. As the retirees adjusted to life in the Twin Cities, Moon found a noticeable gap in open mic opportunities.

“I did a lot of research on open mics in the area and came up fairly empty,” he said, noting a jazz-centric version at Jazz Up Front, and another monthly open mic (he’d rather not say where) that, according to Moon, leaves much to be desired.

“It just didn’t feel like it had any sense of rhythm or any sense of community,” said Moon, a prolific singer/songwriter whose professional career was in art therapy.

“In my day job in years past, I used visual art as a way to build community and form relationships. So in a lot of ways, (open mic night) is doing the same work, only it’s using music as the primary means. I’m at a point in my life where friends are really important to me. I wanted to build a sense of community here.”

At the last open mic in February, Moon opened with a three-song set, followed by two musicians he met at Peoria open mics.

Nicole Montgomery, of Washington, Illinois, is an Illinois Wesleyan University alum. Her degree is in music education, but now she plays for fun. Montgomery’s friend and duet partner was Joshua Allen, of Peoria.

“Music has always been my passion,” said Allen, who during the daytime is a data analyst for a bank. “I never had the chutzpah to actually give it a go as a career. I love building that local community and those local gigs that let you fuel that passion while it may not be your full-time job.”

Derek Thorp, of Bloomington, is part of a songwriting group and met Moon on social media. He’s played guitar for a long time and serves as a worship leader at his church. But this was his first ever open mic night. Thorp is visually impaired and introduced his song, “Blind Guy Blues,” before riffing on clumsy handshakes and misplaced help from strangers.

The next open mic night at Crafted, 1101 Airport Rd., is March 10. Playing begins around 7:30 p.m. Additional nights are scheduled for the second and fourth Fridays in April.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.