The Southland is home to a growing network of acoustic musicians, and a Tinley Park pizzeria is ground zero.
The past few years, open mic night at Ed & Joe's Restaurant and Pizzeria has become a meeting ground for Tinley Park's guitar players and singers, as well as those of neighboring towns.
That's no coincidence, said singer-songwriter Patrick Spiroff, 55.
"There is a little circle of Southwest Side musicians, and we all kind of get to know one another," Spiroff said. "The way we do that is mostly through these open mics."
Spiroff and many other musicians at Ed & Joe's have become familiar faces at the eatery. John Perovich, 50, performed regularly for years before taking on a new role at the restaurant.
"I've been here for five years performing. Then they moved open mics from Sunday to Thursday. That's when I started hosting it on the first Thursday of every month," said Perovich, who is also the dean at St. Joseph High School in Westchester.
With open mic nights going on throughout the week at Casto's Casual Dining and Durbin's Restaurant and Lounge, a stroll down Oak Park Avenue would keep any musician busy. But Ed & Joe's is where guitar players connect with one another.
"This is where I met all those guys," Perovich said. "I really didn't know them before hand, so this is a nice little network and it's nice to come in and support each other."
Lannie Williams, a 45-year-old keyboard player and singer, is new to Ed & Joe's and the area's close-knit circle of talent.
"I spend a lot of time outside of Chicago, performing on cruises," Williams said. "So I don't know a lot of these guys."
But Williams and Perovich both said networks and venues aren't what matter most.
"This is my livelihood," Williams said. "I don't care where I'm playing or singing."
"We would be doing it if it was for one person or for 2,000 people," Perovich added. "It's just something that we do and we love doing it."
As for Spiroff, Ed & Joe's was the ideal starting point for a rejuvenated songwriter to share his music.
"I had been a songwriter a long time ago," the Frankfort musician said. "But I hadn't written anything for like 20 years. And I just thought, 'It's a good song. Maybe I'll take it out and see if anybody likes it.' I knew there was an open mic here and I could start here. Now I do a big circuit of open mics."
Most of the musicians performing at Ed & Joe's on Sept. 2 were in their 40s and 50s, but music director Mike O'Meara said he welcomes all ages.
"We take pride in our open mic as a warm and friendly place that supports and encourages newcomers and old pros alike," O'Meara said.