I vividly remember my first open mic night at DiPiazza.
Alone and new to town, I straddled my guitar up to the bar and asked the bartender if signups were still open. He pointed past the standing crowd to a tall, long-haired figure in the corner booth. That was my introduction to Nicole Santiago.
Nicole, a Long Beach native who began hosting the then-weekly open mic last August, managed to get me on the list that night, despite my late showing and unfamiliarity. With that, I joined the loyal contingent of local musicians who made DiPiazza their regular Wednesday night.
A little more than a month ago, she approached a couple of us with an idea. With women’s history month approaching at the time, she was contemplating putting together a showcase exclusively spotlighting female acts. We agreed that it’s not easy to find a bona fide women’s show where even the backing musicians are ladies.
So was born “A Night of Estrogen,” a benefit for the Long Beach WomenShelter featuring an all-female lineup of musicians, comedians, dancers and artists beginning 8 p.m. on Friday, April 3.
Nicole, who describes herself as a longtime closet musician, taught herself to play guitar when she was 15, but only in the last two years has she begun performing. She’s used to throwing shows, not performing at them, but this upcoming event will be different, she says. For the occasion she is facing her fear head on with the support of an all-women band she brought together for her 30-minute set.
“I feel like we’re the underdogs,” she says of female musicians in the local scene. “The more we play, the more it is empowering to a lot of people, especially young aspiring artists who are girls.”
Many on the lineup — six musical acts and two comedians — are regulars in the DiPiazza open mic community, a handful of whom I consider good friends. The night will be hosted by local comedian Heather Hooks. After a stand-up set from comedian Victoria Cordova of Funny or Die, acoustic soul singer-songwriter Kris Doron will take the stage, followed by folk duo Queen Califia. Shy But Flyy, a singer and cajon player who fronts the blues/rock/soul band The Cold Shoulders, will perform a spoken word act, followed by a short set from myself.
The ethereal ukulele player and singer-songwriter Young Freeze take the stage next, followed by folk singer-songwriter Lindsay Alexis before Nicole brings the full band onstage. Maha and Company, a cultural dance group, will close out the night.
Local artists Esmeralda Villalobos, Jamie Ang Lee, Kelsie Parker and Tracy Negrete will live-paint all night next to the stage. The paintings will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the WomenShelter of Long Beach.
DiPiazza’s open mic, which now takes place every other Wednesday, continues to act as an open hub for old and new faces alike. Nicole says she hopes to continue this event year after year.
“These are my personal friends,” Nicole says. “They’re phenomenal musicians and artists and together we’ve created this sense of community.”
“A Night of Estrogen” takes place from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday, April 3. Tickets, available at the door, are $10 each.