When it comes to Long Island's live music scene, most folks know all the hot spots: Nikon at Jones Beach, Capital One Theatre at Westbury and on a smaller-scale, The Crazy Donkey. What about all the smaller clubs and local neighborhood hot spots? There you'll find local acts, plus regular nights where undiscovered talent (some of it admittedly raw) abounds. If you've been wondering which of the Island's many local open mic nights are worth checking out, here are a few that are sure to please.
Cool Beanz 556 North Country Rd. St. James 631-862-4111 saintjamescoolbeanz.com
WHEN: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m.
THE CROWD: Mostly 20-somethings and younger
DETAILS: The former home of the Acoustic Long Island podcast, Cool Beanz features an attentive audience that really knows the music. Tuesday's open-mic night is especially for teens (it occasionally happens Saturday, too) while Wednesday's general one-hour session is open to performers of all ages. Try the Bavarian and Sumatra coffees or the Frangelico espresso. The coffeehouse serves a strong selection of appetizer plates - think cheese, pizza and other comfort treats.
Acoustic Long Island at Deepwells Mansion 497 North Country Rd. St. James acousticlongisland.com
WHEN: Wednesdays, 8 p.m.
THE CROWD: Truly all ages
DETAILS: Aided by super sound man Billy Alexander, the Acoustic Long Island podcast shot to No. 1 on iTunes and has stayed there for the better part of two years. The weekly 9 p.m. showcase presents some of the area's best acoustic and original music to the public and an open-mic night warms things up at 8 p.m. Besides the top-notch performers, the venue is a charming, 19th century mansion that's intimate and memorable. Best of all, it's free.
Munchaba Lounge 58 Gardiners Ave. Levittown 516-275-2672 myspace.com/munchabalounge
WHEN: Wednesdays, 9 p.m.
THE CROWD: Mostly 20-somethings
DETAILS: This longtime live- music venue has had its ups and downs, but it's back with a steady roster of local bands performing on the weekends. During the week, though, open mic performers (any genre goes) take this cozy space's stage on Wednesday nights as patrons sip drinks and nosh burgers and fries from the kitchen. It's $5 at the door.
The Crazy Donkey 1058 Rte. 110 Farmingdale 631-753-1975 thecrazydonkey.com
WHEN: Starting June 9, Mondays at 7 p.m.
DETAILS: Just in time for summer, Rick Eberle's new open mic night will be open to all ages. Not quite ready to hit the big stage? Strut your Guitar Hero skills in the back of the main room, where your animated rocker self will compete against others on the flat-screen TV.
More open mic nights
What about all the smaller clubs and local neighborhood hot spots? If you're wondering which free open mic nights at bars and restaurants are worth attending during the week, here are a few suggestions:
Start the week off right by hitting up Tupelo Honey (39 Roslyn Ave., 516-671-8300, tupelohoneyrestaurant.com ) in Sea Cliff. The restaurant features live music every Monday night from 7-10:30 p.m. There's no cover charge, entrees range from $18-$25.
On the South Shore, D.J. Rider's Rhythm and Brews has a free open mic acoustic night in Oceanside (3297 Long Beach Rd., 516-766-9822, djriders.com ) at 8:30 p.m. hosted by singer/songwriter Darcy Wright.
Further east, Bartini Bar and Lounge's open mic in Babylon hosts starts at 8 p.m (124 North Carll Ave., 631-539-9196 bartinibar.com ).
Of all the places to go for live music, few are better than Cool Beanz in St. James (556 N. Country Rd., 631-862-4111 saintjamescoolbeanz.com ). Its free one-hour open mic at 8 p.m. Tuesday is always a hit.
At Da Funky Phish in Bay Shore (1668 Union Blvd., 631-665-9851 dafunkyphish.com ) open mic night starts at 9 p.m. with Hank Frank.
Antonio Longo, the original singer for emo darlings Taking Back Sunday hosts a weekly open mic night at The Spoon Coffeehouse in Lindenhurst (125A S. Wellwood Ave., 631-957-7666).
In Rockville Centre, Reflections Bar and Lounge has a top-notch sound system and live music every Wednesday night, with no cover charge (324 Sunrise Hwy., 516-712-4034 reflectionsbar.com ).
Don't ever pass up a chance to attend the Acoustic Long Island podcast every Wednesday at Deepwells Mansion in St. James. The lineup is always strong and the podcast is one of the top acoustic downloads on iTunes. Best of all, it's free. (497 N. Country Rd., acousticlongisland.com ).
Patchogue's Brick House Brewery (67 West Main St., 631-447-2337, brickhousebrewery.com ) has a new "Blues & Brews & BBQ" series at 8:30 p.m., with no cover charge and $3 pints.
For blues jams, ET Quigg's in Bellmore hosts a free open mic blue jam Thurdays at 9 p.m. (2807 Merrick Rd., 516-785-9559 myspace.com/et_quiggs ).
On the third Thursday of each month, The Pisces Café in Babylon hosts free, original acoustic music from 9 p.m.-midnight (14A Railroad Ave., 31-321-1231, piscescafe.net ). The room has hosted some of Long Island's brightest performers for years.
In Riverhead, The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall hosts "Voices at Vail," with original music every third Thursday at 8 p.m. (18 Peconic Ave., 631-727-5782, vail-leavitt.org ).
The Village Pub South in Amityville (198 Broadway, 631-624-2320 myspace.com/cookstavern44 ) is under new management and working to redefine both the image and feel of the club. Bands perform both Friday and Saturday nights with the Fridays proving to be somewhat livelier.
On the first Saturday of the month in Huntington, the Folk Music Society runs shows out of the Congregational Church of Huntington in Centerport at 8:30 p.m. (30 Washington Dr., 631-661-1278, fmshny.com ) The series recently hosted a Phil Ochs tribute night and has featured bands like the up-and-coming girl folk group Red Molly. Shows cost $20.
In Nassau, the Munchaba Lounge (58 Gardiners Ave., Levittown, 516-275-2672, myspace.com/munchabalounge ) brings in some local acts every weekend. The action begins at 9 p.m. Call for details on a cover charge.
After tackling all the Sunday chores, take the time to visit the Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore (60 E. Main St., 631-969-9700, thenuttyirishman.com ). Local promoters Groove Shack and Rick Eberle's PopCore put on shows that begin at 3 p.m. and last into the evening.
In Stony Brook, the University Cafe (Stadium Road, Stony Brook University, 631-632-1093, universitycafe.org ) puts on singer/songwriter concerts one Sunday per month.
The Vibe Lounge in Rockville Centre (60-B North Park Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-208-6590) hosts emo and indie music on various nights of the week, most of which have fallen on a Sunday. A cover charge at the Vibe varies by performance.