Barrett passes the mic

Photo by Ashley Durham Patrick Gibbens and Daniel Lorenzo performing. Photo by Ashley Durham

A steady beat pumps down the Barrett Honors Hall, barely ekes into the dining room, and gently draws curious students near. Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift set a uniquely casual mood for the Barrett Open Mic Night in the Burning B Cafe. The upbeat music and chattering crowds of about 15 students breaks the stereotypical expectation of a beret-wearing, dark, poetry reading.

Like the beginning of a symphony, the modest crowd quiets and the music softens as history and economics junior Samantha Sirk takes the microphone to welcome poets, vocalists, beat boxers and musicians to Barrett’s first open mic night.

After fumbling with the finicky sound system, digital culture freshman Patrick Gibbens takes a seat in front of a microphone and gauges the tune of his acoustic guitar. Strumming snags the attention of several passing students and the Burning B gathers a few more visitors. Music freshman Daniel Lorenzo pulls out his guitar and takes a seat next to Gibbens. The plush leather couches are packed and now all of the wooden tables are surrounded.

“Check...Check!” Lorenzo searches for some response from the mic. With a little more mic tweaking, Gibbens opens with the classic, “one, a one, a one, two three four.” Patiently strumming, his voice meanders into the opening verses of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. Closing his eyes thoughtfully, he focuses on bringing the audience into the lyrics.

Finishing with audience applause, both Lorenzo and Gibbens laugh a little with pleasure at breaking through the first performance of the night. Sirk gives the two performers “Barrett Bucks” and Lorenzo jokes, “We’re just in it for the money.”

Heading back on stage for a second round, Gibbens plucks a few strings on his guitar while Lorenzo unpacks a viola. With a few more sound system adjustments, Gibbens opens again and follows the lyrics through a low and soulful “honey...” in a song he wrote himself, “A Different Part.” Lorenzo’s viola skillfully harmonizes with Patrick’s deep chords in a sweet and longing tone.

The onlookers increase to a little over 20 people and several cautiously tapping feet. While the guitar sways with Gibbens’s words, the song digresses into a powerful bridge motivated by his soft smile. The duo are clearly confident and pleased as the song winds down through an instrumental.

Sirk comes back on the mic asking for any additional sign-ups to take the stage. The stage remains friendly to all sorts of artists, beatboxers and musicians. In the meantime, attendees sip coffee, take a spin at a prize wheel and engage in light conversation.

“I’ve got something,” history freshman Michael Mongeau offers. Sirk introduces him at the mic, and Mongeau presents his poem, “The Raven is a Solitary Bird.” He voices the analogy of a raven who desires a break from his introverted tendencies to follow a potential love. “Better to cry from love lost than love never had,” he recites. Mongeau holds the audience captive with the concept of love and they seal his words with snaps rather than applause.

Breaking the seriousness with his enthusiasm, computer science freshman Faiz Khan hops on stage with Gibbens who is up for yet another round. With an iPhone to reference lyrics, they sing Jack Johnson’s “Banana Pancakes.” Although completely extemporaneous, Khan and Gibbens have fun with the song and a few audience members hum along with the familiar tune.

While Khan and Gibbens sing, mathematics freshman Jake Browning runs to find his guitar and assume the stage after “Banana Pancakes.” Sirk fights a little with the sound system to tame the feedback and Browning feels out the strings of his guitar. The night is winding down, but the crowd’s excitement peaks at the sight of a new face. As the feedback settles, Browning explains he will go for a “coffee house take” on “Problem” by Ariana Grande. Nimbly jumping from fret to fret on the neck of his guitar, Jake pulls off an impressively bluesy rendition of an otherwise club-worthy song.

Following Browning, Khan and Gibbens take the stage again, but this time bringing their friend, accountancy freshman Mikkaela Salamatin. Together they feel out the chords and verses of Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Bringing the night full circle, Gibbens and Lorenzo are up again with the Arctic Monkeys' “Cornerstone.” After a staccato acoustic strum, Lorenzo seals the night with a long reminiscent pull on the viola.

Sirk comes on one more time to thank the performers and invite everyone back for next month’s open mic night at the Burning B. With the the creative atmosphere in the cafe entirely saturated, the night closes at a content click of the mic.

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