Maybe it's the infectious friendliness of this legendary Edwardsville establishment, the obscure microbrewed beer specials, the ample stage -- got a six-piece rock band with trumpet? No sweat! -- or the sterling sound system with functioning monitors. Whatever it is, the Stagger's twice-a-week open-mic get-togethers are more addictive than karaoke and ten times as musical. No one abuses the mic with Cher covers or scatological "spoken word" rants and, even better, the hosts don't act like jack-offs. Sunday night's list-keeper, Butch Moore, now into his second decade as emcee, always nails the Steve Earle songbook, while the Duck Tape Trio, Wednesday's hosts, set a more manic pace. You can hear regulars like Rosco Villa with his Eddie Spaghetti-like swagger, or 68-year-old Mike Smith with his banjo epics, not to mention the ever-rotating cast of SIUE slackers tossing back Jägermeister and throwing down bluegrass jams. It's not talent night at the Apollo, but it's the most entertaining and open invite around.
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