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Thank You, Bill 

Bill Powers passed the torch on to Ky Burt as the Storytellers Open Mic host, where its loving spirit will remain intact

Bill Powers has long been the face of the Storytellers Open Mic series at The Commons, a weekly affair on Tuesday nights that added even more magic to the often-buzzing Brooks Alley. But after more than five years of running things, Powers announced on Facebook that he would officially be stepping down from his role as host. His final time leading the night was on Aug. 30. During the pandemic Powers had pondered the future of his role with the open mic, and now the time was right.

click to enlarge Handing over the reins. Here is Bill Powers, left, and Ky Burt during Powers' last night as host of the Storytellers Open Mic. - COURTESY OF BILL POWERS
  • Courtesy of Bill Powers
  • Handing over the reins. Here is Bill Powers, left, and Ky Burt during Powers' last night as host of the Storytellers Open Mic.

"I enjoyed the break from everything during Covid, and when things came back I think I'd just lost some steam overall and I started wondering how long I'd continue," Powers tells the Source. "I just couldn't decide I was ready to stop. I had such a strong attachment to it all. I recently just kinda 'took inventory' of things—and I just wanted to have at least another evening home."

Taking the reins from Powers is singer/songwriter Ky Burt, who you might recognize as the lead singer of country-swing band Holy Smokes or from his solo performances around the area. He released his debut solo album, "The Sky In Between," in April of 2019. Powers says he took notice of Burt immediately when they met, noting that the pair were practically destined to become friends. For Burt, hosting the Storytellers Open Mic is an opportunity he couldn't let pass by.

"I am really excited to take over hosting, to say the least. Having known Bill for years and his efforts towards community and music, and being a dedicated songwriter/performer/community builder myself, there's a real energy in being able to carry on the support of others in pursuing their craft. Bill will be greatly missed but the show will go on!"

Powers has been leading the front almost every night since he stepped in during the early iterations of the evening. Sure, he's had subs fill in for him every now and then, but his determination and passion for this evening is what has kept it running so successfully. Even during the height of the pandemic, Powers was one of the first to start livestreaming concerts within the community. He continued a weekly live-streamed open mic to fill in the Storytellers void; held a Honey Don't weekend series called Honey Brunches with his wife Shelley that contributed to the St. Charles Meal Mission; and he also managed to remotely coordinate different at-home live streams from different artists for the Source Weekly's Home Concert series. Not only was Powers a brilliant open mic host, but he continues to be the biggest champion and fan for live music in Central Oregon.

"I'd never hosted an open mic [before]. I sure had played plenty! But I took the opportunity and I'm so glad I did. Every season or year there's been a new batch of folks attending regularly or occasionally and I've gotten to know a lot of cool and interesting folks through doing this," Powers wrote in his goodbye post on Facebook. "Dan Baumann and the various staff since I've been there were half the reason I enjoyed it so much. They've always been chill and fun and made me feel at home. Hell, Shelley and I were sitting in the Commons' back porch overlooking Mirror Pond back when it was Crow's Feet Commons when we decided that we'd move to Bend from Western Colorado. So the place has always been special to us."

The evolution of local music scenes depends a lot on people like Bill Powers, who really open doors and create spaces for people to share and be themselves. This is why scenes thrive and continue to grow. So the next time you see Powers out at a show, make sure to tell him thank you for hosting all of these years. An even better gift would be to show up on Tuesday nights to watch history continue on with Ky Burt at the helm. The open mic continues.

"It's helped me let this go knowing I could leave it in good caring hands. Thanks Ky—I know the open mic will carry on in the spirit that we've had."

Storytellers Open Mic
Tuesday evenings, 6-8pm
Sign-up for performers at 5pm
The Commons Cafe
875 NW Brooks St., Bend

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...
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