Mr. microphone

LES host Faceboy celebrates 600 wild nights of open mikes

Photo: George Courtney, Courtesy of Francis Richard Hall

With about 40 performers taking the stage per night, and nearly 600 nights under his belt, the host of Faceboyz Open Mike Night on the Lower East Side figures he’s seen something like 24,000 eight-minute acts since 1994. As he listened to stories of sexual misadventure and touchingly personal poetry—and watched one woman actually empty a syringe of heroin into her arm onstage—Francis Richard Hall, a.k.a. Faceboy, has persevered through the neighborhood’s gentrification with an almost religious devotion to the art of the open mike.

“There are a lack of stages for absolute free expression in the city,” says Faceboy, 40. “I’ve always wanted to create a space where a poor-ass motherfucker could go and share and hear stories.”

After years at Collective: Unconscious on Avenue B (now located in Tribeca) and then at Surf Reality on Allen Street (now a yoga studio), Faceboyz Open Mike currently resides at Mo Pitkin’s on Avenue A. A great believer in the power of the spoken word, Faceboy likens the microphone to a Native American talking stick: He who holds the stick talks, and everyone else listens, no heckling allowed. The show is not over until everyone who signed up has had eight minutes— a rule that once forced Faceboy to keep going for 28 straight hours.

“My long-term goal is to raise enough money to buy a building,” says Faceboy. “Then we would never have to deal with rising rents or selling a certain number of drinks at the bar. All I’ve ever wanted to sell is art.”—Justin Rocket Silverman

Faceboyz Open Mike Night begins every Sunday at 9pm at Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction (34 Avenue A between 2nd and 3rd Sts). The 600th show is March 19.