Nobody rocks purple like Jefferson Jay.
By the time Jefferson Jay started hosting the Thursday night open-mic at Winstons, he was already an old pro. At that point, Jay already had a long history of running these events at venues that included Tom Foolery’s, O’Connell’s, and Gallagher’s. Out of all the former gigs, it was a mid-to late-2000s run at Portugalia (now a Breakfast Republic in Ocean Beach) that Jay seems to remember most fondly.
“The owners had a wild west mentality, and they set me free on the music side of it,” Jay explained. “I like to think that me and the people I got involved with helped save that place. It was totally failing, and then we came in and brought a lot of energy and it built up.”
He continued, “I was eventually there three nights a week. I hosted 12 hours and 24 hours of free music there in 2008 and 2009, picking up on those shows I did at Lestat’s in 2003 and Hot Monkey Love Café in 2005. That was pretty cool because you can’t really find a venue anymore, even before the pandemic, that’s willing to do 24 hours of free music at this point.”
Jay was offered a 6-9 slot at Winstons while he was still hosting at Portugalia, but he declined. “I was so into the whole idea of ‘this show starts at 6pm and goes till 2am.’ I was young and fired up and that’s what I wanted.” Fast-forward to 2012 where a not quite as young and less fired up Jay (who also happened to be an open-mic free agent at the time) suddenly found the same offer quite enticing. He accepted and has hosted a successful open-mic at Winstons for eight years now.
And then COVID-19 happened. For the first time, Jay would move an open-mic night into the digital realm. “Closed-Mic” was born. The new show features pre-taped music clips from a variety of artists. Some are well-edited music videos. Many are taped live performances, and there’s even a father-son duo that specialize in karaoke sing-alongs to songs such as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer.”
“Anybody can submit, and I’ll take anyone,” Jay explained. “It’s just like open-mic. My one criteria for the most part is the same that it is at open-mic at Winstons — I would like it to be music. I don’t want a comedy thing.”
According to Jay, the Closed-Mic show usually gets 800-1000 viewers during the 60-90 minutes while it’s streaming live on Facebook. That number then tends to double over the next week or so, and levels off when the next episode comes out. Since “some people don’t do Facebook,” he also uploads every episode to his YouTube channel, the Good Vibe Network.
Speaking of which, the Good Vibe is the company he started to spearhead his new passion project, in his words “An animated, holiday-season, musical-comedy series that will show what people with disabilities are capable of when given a chance.... A program with characters you can trust for generations, like Sesame Street.”
The pilot for the series is almost done, and then it’s a matter of setting up meetings to secure a deal with a network or streaming service.
And if all this wasn’t enough, Jay is also sitting on five albums of acoustic recordings that he’s hoping to release before 2021.
And as for returning to the regular open-mic, he isn’t in a rush. “The last line in the 'Star-Spangled Banner' is ‘The land of the free and the home of the brave.’ That’s a great statement, but when you look at it maybe it should be ‘The land of the smart and the home of the safe.’ That’s a lot more sustainable long term. It’s great to be free and brave, but I think we’re seeing what that can lead to.”