The fifth year of "Open Mic and Jam Nights" wrapped up at the Portage Legion Hall this past weekend. The event is organized by the Whoop and Hollar Music Festival providing local acts with a venue to perform. Freestyle rapper Andrew Chiponski says he's been performing there for several years now. He explains his lyrics and beats are entirely improvised, or "off the dome" and that music has been an important expressive outlet for him, helping him cope during more difficult times. Chiponski calls the crowd consistently receptive and enthusiastic. 

 "It's amazing to see that every seat is filled here, bringing the community together. There's a lot of people that want to get out on a Friday night to enjoy some live music and to be in a friendly place. Everyone seems to know each other here so it's been very pleasant."

Alexa Kowerchuk attended with a group of family and friends to watch her mom, Anita Kowerchuk, in an acoustic performance. She says she first learned of her mom's talent when she was in her late teens, explaining the family purchased her mom a guitar for Christmas one year and it seems like she has been playing it ever since. Kowerchuk says she is proud to watch her mom perform, "The songs she plays I've heard her play a million times at home; I can't help but sing along. Sometimes the songs she sings the whole crowd maybe doesn't know, but I know them because I've heard her sing them so many times. To hear her sing them, and the way she makes the songs her own is really cool."

Artistic director Josh Wright says the event is an important outing for many, "We can congregate inside, share some music, jamming, food and just good times. It is a great community thing for those long winter months. This open mic gears us up for the festival, scouting local talent and bringing people into the fold of performing on stage. It also motivates us as organizers and volunteers to keep doing what we do and help promote the best weekend and this wonderful music scene in Manitoba."  

Wright says they take pride in creating a welcoming atmosphere. 

"Artists like a safe space and that's one thing at Whoop and Hollar we try to maintain for everybody: an accessible and inclusive environment. We like helping people to share music or poetry when they haven't tested it out before, and that's when we find out there's so many best kept secrets here that just need that little push to get up on stage and get their creative talents out. It inspires other musicians, and we see people coming back. It is inspiring that they have a place to connect and network with other musicians, to jam with each other and work on developing their craft month after month and year after year." 

The Whoop and Hollar Festival recently released their summer festival lineup, including Hello Fiasco, Sweet Alibi, Ben Sures, Woody Holler & His Orchestra, Yaadies, Anne-Marie Williot, Heather Jean Jordan, Fred Acoby, Those Folks, Don Adams, Bob Kriski, The Singing Gardener, and High Gravity Stew Brew.