Nestled in the heart of Ogden is a small music venue that serves as a place for students and citizens of Ogden to cultivate their musical talent. Mojo’s Cafe and Gallery has been around since 2004, when owner Ron Atencio wanted to bring an all-ages music venue to the city and provide a place for budding musicians to begin their musical journeys.
“This is the very first start of raw talent trying to bubble up to fruition,” Atencio said. “I can’t tell you how many hundreds or more that have had their first show and start on the Mojo’s stage from an open-mic jam.”
Bands such as Fictionist, The Old World, The North Valley, Marny Proudfit, Shaky Trade and Fox Van Cleef have utilized Mojo’s as a way to spread their music around Ogden and grow from there into a band known across the state and even the West Coast.
Most of these bands fit under the folk genre. Some Weber State University students said that genre is the best-known in the city.
“Ogden looks like the place where an old Western would be filmed,” said Lucas Keddington, a WSU freshman. “The music reflects the feel of the town . . . Some of the best local music I’ve heard from here has been folk rock. We really have some of the best folk bands I’ve heard, all right here in Ogden.”
But musicians don’t necessarily need a gig to get noticed in Ogden, and they don’t need to be folk rock. Atencio offers an open mic night to help those just starting out find their way in the music scene.
“We have always played every type of music here at Mojo’s,” he said. “Rock, metal, indie, acoustic, punk, reggae, ska, blues, jazz, hardcore, hip-hop, folk, Americana, techno . . . Our roots are and always will be the local talent.”
Open Mic Night, held every Thursday at the venue, serves as an outlet for new and experienced musicians to practice performing in front of an audience.
“We get all levels of experience and talent and all ages,” Atencio said. “Everyone gets 10 minutes, or approximately two songs. . . . We encourage all levels to gain their confidence and try out their music to our very open-minded and supportive crowd.”
Most recently, Mojo’s was the place where a 10-year-old boy began his musical journey. He now plays gigs all across the Wasatch Front. On the other side of the spectrum, Atencio said, a 55-year-old man recently had his first show on the Mojo’s stage during Open Mic Night and still regularly attends the event.
“The open-mic jam is the perfect indicator of talent in the local area,” Atencio said. “When I started Mojo’s nine years ago, I knew there was much untapped talent, especially the youth here in the Ogden area, but honestly, I did not know how much. The tap was set, and it began gushing immediately and hasn’t stopped, but (has) just gotten stronger . . . We are proud to have had a hand in getting that spark started then and now. It is spreading like wildfire.”
Mojo’s began Open Mic Night back in 2004, and it has slowly grown over time to become a local tradition.
“We began quietly building word of mouth even before we had our sign on the building,” Atencio said. “They were on Fridays then, but shows were coming so soon we moved them to Wednesdays . . . then, a few years ago, to Thursdays. That way, we are open three days in a row, and Thursday helps kick in the weekend. Many people look forward to this night of the week as a regular event to attend and participate. We are happy about that.”
Open Mic Night costs only $1 for admission.
“It’s nice to have that option,” Keddington said. “It’s nice to know that there are cheap ways to enjoy music . . . I don’t have to pay 20 bucks for a two-hour show. Instead, I can pay a dollar and see great local talent.”
Viewers can also keep themselves hydrated with a drink of their choice, included in the price of $1.
“I love how inexpensive it is,” said Leah Hulse, a WSU junior. “It’s nice to see businesses acknowledge that we’re college students and we can’t afford a lot of fun things . . . I go to Open Mic when I can, just to watch people perform. Maybe someday I’ll have the guts to get up there myself. I probably should learn to play the guitar first.”