Open mic night at the Town Pump is homecoming for local musician
Strolling along Cherry Street on a Wednesday night, after the majority of businesses have closed for the day, it’s hard to ignore the sounds floating through the air.
The music emanates from the Town Pump Tavern, which holds an open mic night beginning around 9 p.m. each week. It’s a setting David Bryan, who recently returned to the stage as the host of the weekly gathering, is quite familiar with.
Bryan has been a fixture on the local music scene since moving to Black Mountain from West Virginia over 15 years ago.
“When I moved here I had two kids to raise, so I didn’t really have time to be in a band,” said Bryan, who received his first guitar at the age of six. “Since my time was limited I would hit the open mic nights when I could.”
Having played a gig in the Swannanoa Valley prior to moving to the area, he was aware of a thriving community of songwriters and musicians here.
“There is a lot of good music going on in this area,” he said minutes before taking the stage at the Pump. “I mean it’s little Nashville.”
Bryan’s musical style, which is influenced by everyone from Neil Young to Eric Clapton to Lynyrd Skynyrd, was well-received in his new hometown.
“Who doesn’t love Skynyrd?” he asks with a laugh.
At least one former member of the legendary southern rock band, Black Mountain resident Artimus Pyle, is a fan of Bryan’s too.
“I played in a band for a little while with Artimus,” Bryan said. “That was a lot of fun.”
It was his friendship with popular singer-songwriter Paco Shipp that helped Bryan become a recognizable face on stages all over the region.
“I was very fortunate to meet Paco when I first moved here,” he said. “We became good friends and played together a lot.”
Bryan started hosting open mic night at the Pump in 2007 when it owned by Dan Johnston, another Swannanoa Valley singer-songwriter. The two recently played together at Pisgah Brewing Co., where they opened for Frank Bang and the Secret Stash. He took a break from that duty after about four years, he said.
Bryan returned to the Pump two more times to host the weekly gatherings and led an unplugged acoustic circle at Dark City Deli a couple of years ago.
It was somewhat of a homecoming when he found himself back in his familiar role at the Pump this past December.
“There’s a great feeling at this place,” he said. “A lot of locals come in and there’s a ton of history here.”
Bryan kicks off each open mic night with a few songs.
“I do a lot of covers, and I usually open up with five or six songs,” he said. “People sign up on a sheet and come up and play. I back them up with my guitar, harmonica, vocals or whatever they need.”
He enjoys sharing the stage with an endless cast of local musicians, who come to play covers or songs they've written themselves.
"You'd be amazed how many great musicians come to open mic because they're new to town," he said. "Nobody knows them yet and playing here is a great way to get your name out there and show people what you got."
And what Black Mountain's got, according to Bryan, is a tight community of musicians.
"We're kind of like a family, you know," he said. "We all want to make good music and have fun playing together."