"I walked in one night, and it was dead," says Jeff "Mono Mono" Beringer about the open-mike night at Hillcrest's Brass Rail. "No one was there, so I approached the manager. I said, 'Give me one night a week and I'll have this place hopping.' And I did."
Beringer took over Plugged (the opposite of "unplugged") on June 8 and has continued hosting every Thursday since then. It's a mix of local bands, solo artists, dancers, and performance artists. Solo artists get 30 minutes; bands get 40.
"If you go to Winstons or Blind Melons, you expect full bands," says Beringer. "If you go to Lestat's or Twiggs, you only get singer-songwriters. I want everybody.... People were shocked when they saw [a band at the Brass Rail]. The Brass Rail is the oldest gay bar in San Diego. I don't think there's been a live band there in 50 years."
Beringer is the host, but he performs between artists; he sings over dance tracks.
"I have a visual orgy. I touch people during my show. I use smoke, confetti, streamers. I throw out balls, play money. I dress up like a sumo wrestler, a Catholic schoolgirl." Beringer admits he sometimes shows skin during his show. "I'm not sure what the law is on that."
So far, Plugged has featured local bands such as Bobby Fantasy, Blizzard, and Jefferson Jay. Solo artists have included Sweet Joyce Ann, Cory Wilkins, and Nate Davenport. Admission has been free, and bands have played for free.
"Starting August 10, we'll charge $5 at the door, and all the money will go to those who played," says Beringer.
What have reviews been like for straight performers?
"Male artists commented that they get a lot more positive feedback than they do at other venues.... Anyone who is good gets attention."
And if they aren't so good?
"The patrons just sort of turn around and talk to each other. Straight people are savages. They get into fights. Gay people are more civilized."
Plugged takes place Thursdays, 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.