Asst. Features Editor
The daytime heat left a lasting impression on the evening air, leaving a denseness that clung to skin like a near imperceptible sweater. Not warm enough to draw sweat, yet still lacking the welcome chill of night, the muggy conditions would have deterred a less willing crowd from Thursday’s Open Mic Night. The event persisted on April 8, causing Poets to fill the seats in Villalobos Hall.
Besides the foldable table in the back — displaying various KPOET merchandise — hardly anything in the physical makeup of the event gave any insight into the kinds of talent one could have expected to see that night. The lights were dimmed, but not enough to hide the night’s true ambiance: a harmony of bouncing knees, nervous chatter, and sanguine smiles. The music of anticipation set the stage.
The previous Open Mic Night occurred last semester, before the decision to revert to a period of online learning, and was enough to leave Poets wanting more. Last semester’s event had graced the Whittier College community with the discovery of talent like fourth-year Christian Banuelos, a singer/songwriter. Fortunately, Banuelos made his second overall appearance at Thursday’s event along with Open Mic veteran, fourth-year Daniel Wolf and fourth-year Mercedes Brookins, a Quaker Campus editor.
It was second-year Theo Stevens, however, that gave a fresh start to a beloved event. Stevens captivated spectators with only a few chords of their ukulele. Their voice filled the room, once hot and stuffy from the outside air, with the lightness of a childhood lullaby while they sang “Bloom” by The Paper Kites. They channeled memory lane as they concluded their set with a song called “Rosemary” dedicated to their grandmother who had, as they put it, “a penchant for entering weird writing competitions.” After displaying a mountain of talent, even Stevens’ bundled nerves exhibited the same natural beauty of the rosemary they sang about.
Following this, fourth-year Clifton Blevins, guided audience members from Steven’s nostalgic melody into the era of Saturday morning cartoons with his performance of the Animaniacs’ “Yakko’s World.” Blevins’ performed with an infectious enthusiasm that inspired the crowd to share in by clapping to the beat while Blevins sang along to the song that continues to live in his kindest memories. From there the night began to mellow out with fourth-year Dalen Thomas’s performance. She grabbed the audience’s attention with her soft voice that punctuated the air with strength at all the right moments during her cover of “Both Sides Now” from the 2021 film, CODA. While providing a valuable performance, Thomas also managed to properly prepare the stage for Banuelos and his acoustic guitar—a duo that never disappoints. Banuelos gave the audience back-to-back covers of “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters, “Weird Fishes” by Radiohead, and “Cherry Wine” by Hozier.
Second-year Madison Brown was the last individual to show off her impressive pipes as she embodied her childhood love of jazz. Poets remembered the virtues of the classic music category as she performed “Starchild” from the musical Ghost Quartet and reinvigorated songs like “Puttin on the Ritz” by Ella Fitzgerald and “Whatever Lola Wants” by Sarah Vaughan. After Brown’s uproar of applause began to die down, the wordsmith poets began to take the stage.
First, Brookins plucked at the heartstrings of the clustered Poets as she delivered each turn of phrase and metaphor that comprises her spoken word with meaningful candor. With original pieces like, “library of love” and “side chick”, Brookins made it easy to snap in support as collective empathy built over concepts of lost and unrequited love. She also performed “my type of love” and an untitled piece. Leaving us feeling a little more vulnerable and a lot more understood, Wolf concluded the event with the frenzy of imagery found within his poems, “Excerpts on an Island” and “A Single Man.” Wolf revealed his heart as he traversed through his real-life fears of a congenial heart condition, juxtaposing them against his metaphorical connections to his hearth through love and life as a gay man. This last set of performances sealed the night like a love letter, with an assertion of complete tenderness.
When given a mic and an open stage, Poets know how to show out. KPOET’s Open Mic Night, once again provides an enjoyable environment to engage with the talents and passions of our peers, leaving Poets with a fulfilling experience of community. KPOET prepares for a final bow as the last Open Mic Night is set for May 6 at 8 p.m. in Villalobos Hall.
Featured Image Courtesy of Sage Amdahl/Quaker Campus