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Nightlife: Open Mic Night at Kings Bowl America

Musicians, comedians, poets flock to Wednesday event


When Kings Bowl America opened in Boston 12 years ago, it sought to create an entertainment complex that went far beyond your typical bowling alley. Kings’ 24,000 square feet boasts 16 10-pin bowling lanes, 3 premium bars, and a full-service restaurant. And then there’s the private Royal Room, featuring six Brunswick Gold Crown pool tables, four retro oak skee-ball tables, and a regulation shuffleboard table. So it’s easy to see why Kings Boston has become such a popular destination for families, dates, college students, and company gatherings.

Each Wednesday, poets, comedians, singers, songwriters, musicians—even magicians—converge on Kings’ Back Bay Lounge for Open Mic Night. Performers must sign up in the hour before the 9 p.m. show in order to appear on stage.

The evening usually opens with local funnyman Matt Chaves acting as MC. When we stopped by last week, Chaves warmed up the crowd with jokes about the validity of newspaper horoscopes, noting the irony of their frequently being directly above weather forecasts, “something that actually predicts the future.” Once the crowd had settled, he briefly described the evening’s ground rules: musical acts could perform no more than two songs, and nonmusical acts could have five minutes.

nightlife, Kings Back Bay Open Mic Night

Host Matt Chaves picks the names of performers at Open Mic night randomly, so no one knows when a name will be called.

After a string of what seemed to us rather dry comedy routines, the evening’s musical acts took the stage. First up were two musicians, Chris Pacileo and Madeline Roznos, who formed their band, Keeping Company, after serendipitously meeting online on Craigslist. Pacileo was looking for a vocalist after performing solo. Roznos, who had just moved to Massachusetts to work in special education, needed furniture for her new home and saw Pacileo’s post: “Needed: Female Vocalist,” while searching on Craigslist. The two performed one of their original songs, “All I Want Is You,” which captured the full attention of the room. Next up was a local band featuring singer-songwriter Michael Mirabella, Harry Brownstein on bass, and Jack Naylor on drums. Their spirited, feel-good music was a hit with the small crowd in the lounge. Local rapper Ryan Warhol filled the place with cool vibes sampling music from Grammy-nominated rapper Nas and the Roots, the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

The rest of the night consisted of an array of comedic performances, ranging from a college student who confessed to taking his first stab at stand-up to a father whose routine centered around attempts to keep up with his three children. A young professional dressed in a Halloween costume used her five minutes to joke about the culture shock resulting from her moving from Brighton to Cambridge. But the night’s biggest laugh belonged to a female comedian who noted that Bostonians are some of the nicest people she has ever met—until she encounters them intoxicated. Many of the comedians were so talented that at times the open mic seemed more like a competition, even though no prizes are awarded. Entertainers are encouraged to return as long as they have new material.

nightlife, Kings Back Bay Open Mic Night

After placing second in the 2011 Beantown Comedy Riot Competition, Justin Hoff has performed at venues all over New England, including Kings Bowl America.

The lounge offers a full menu, comprising mostly pizzas, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and burgers—all affordable on a student budget. Sandwiches run between $5 and $6.50, burgers between $6.50 and $8.75. Even the cocktails are a bargain at $9, less than what you’ll find at most other area bars. The menu offers lots of tasty sides as well, such as bacon cheddar tots ($5), sweet potato fries with maple Dijon sauce ($3.50), and warm kale salad ($7).

Open mic typically ends around midnight, but Kings Bowl America stays open until 1 a.m. on weeknights, leaving enough time to get in a quick game of bowling or billiards before calling it a night.

Kings Bowl America’s Open Mic Night is every Wednesday, from 9 p.m. to midnight, at Kings Boston, 50 Dalton St., Boston (directly across from the Hynes Convention Center); phone: 617-266-2695. The show is free and 18+ (ID required). Those 21+ can purchase drinks. By public transportation, take a MBTA Green Line trolley to Hynes Convention Center.

Brandon Lewis can be reached at bmlewis@bu.edu.

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