Indecipherable words are etched on wooden benches outside, booze abounds, and chatter fills the air; Giovanni’s is the perfect place for KCSB-FM, who boast that they rarely play pop, instead blasting underrepresented music all day on their frequency, 91.9, to host their Open Mic Night. True to their claims, the ambient music KCSB played was certainly alternative, and its alternative-ness was the uniting theme of the music performed throughout the night.
This Open Mic Night, the fifth they’ve held in 2017, is one of many events this quarter to promote KCSB’s interactions with the community while taking the opportunity to remind students to vote for the station in its reaffirmation campaign for continued student funding in the upcoming Associated Students elections. From their 55-year legacy and the looks of their enthusiastic audience, it seems like they have a good chance.
The two MCs for the night were Kendra Lee, hilariously dressed in a SpongeBob SquarePants costume, and Miles Bishop. Both offered easy and snarky humor, nicely transitioning between awkward pauses and calling up new performers to the stage.
Within the span of four hours, 25 people performed a variety of stand-up comedy, music, and rap. The humor was sometimes crass and on the brink of sounding racist, but the audience seem to enjoy it to a certain degree. One comedian, Benji, commented on bathrooms in the library available for use to all genders, but wondered about the absence of the urinals in the men’s bathroom. He concluded, with a huge laugh from the audience, “#bringbackoururinals!” KCSB’s own Payam spoke about his experiences, or lack of, dating as a post-doctorate. Anyone who has ever felt a little socially awkward and hates small talk, so basically everyone, could relate to Payam’s humor.
Some of the most thought-provoking performances came from the rappers in attendance. Two, Abraham and Rudy K, are also part of the UCSB Hip Hop Collective, and their raps seemed to reflect concerns many young people have today. Abraham went first, saying, “Who do you know is addicted to vices … afflicted by crises, we drink and we smoke.” Rudy K performed afterwards with a resonant lyric, “I’m just trying to live life to the fullest and be something.”
The duo Falcon Circus received good feedback from the audience, with one man on the drums and another man playing keyboard and a guitar with what seemed to be a slide. What they produced had lots of reverb and a strong alternative sound. It was the sort of music one would hear while in a dreamscape.
A standout vocal of the night was Ria Perera, who performed a powerful cover of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.” Armed with a crystal-clear voice that hit all those high notes, and having changed the lyrics nicely so that it was from the girl’s perspective, Ria was able to stir some emotion. Some other interesting singers were Tian and Michelle, who sang an original with the lyrics, “I think you and I might be falling in love.” Fitting with the recent weather in SB, the song had a cute springtime tone to it.
Another interesting duet was Ocho y Ralei, with Ocho on an eight-stringed ukulele and Ralei on a noise shaker. Both were equipped with strong voices, as he could sing, beatbox, and rap, and she supported with vocals. With an easy synchronization between them, it was clear both were adept musicians and had been doing this a while.
The surprise of the night was Marquel Carnell. Dressed in a red hoodie, jeans, and glasses, he didn’t look like much, but the boy could definitely rap. The chorus of his first song, “Work It Out”,said , “If you got a problem work it out / Don’t say life sucks and then curse it out / Time is money, time is everything.” His second song, a bit of a love song, had even more interesting lyrics such as, “I cover my blemishes through my penmanship … Marquel Carnell call me the black enigma.” He received such a positive reaction from the audience that KCSB let him do a third song called “Saturday Night.” Carnell mentioned he had dropped the last song on Soundcloud, and from the crowd’s passionate reception of him, he might be one to watch out for.
The energy level reached a climax in response to the highly anticipated Rich Thompson. His song “This Shit is Dank” was upbeat, intense electronic music, created by his tapping of a soundboard and playing of a small electric-guitar-looking instrument. People danced instinctively to his music, and the floor seemed to shake with the deep bass.
Watching the numerous performers, it was apparent that there will always be talent found in the young. Common topics of songs and jokes were love, of course, but also individualism, drugs, and even consumerism. Everyone seemed to be incredibly conscious of the tense political and cultural times we live in. Especially in light of the legalization of marijuana in California, some wondered about the presence of the drug in their lives, whether it be strong or nothing at all.
Despite some heavier themes during the night, most seemed ready to leave their worries behind and merely indulge in good alternative music performed by the local community. KCSB’s Open Mic Night was exactly the place to do that.