Students Display Talent at Common Grounds Open Mic

Sophomore Ruthie Beck rapping "Ice, Ice Baby" interspersed with the doxology.

Sophomore Ruthie Beck rapping “Ice, Ice Baby” interspersed with the doxology.

Student musicians and poets serenaded a full house in Common Grounds for an Open Mic event last Saturday. At 8:30 p.m., Sophomore Rachel Yoder led a repertoire of 18 acts with a pumpkin-themed joke and a honey-voiced cover of “I Never Told You,” by Colbie Caillat. Yoder exemplified the general flavor of the occasion: acoustic covers of popular songs played with stringed instruments and an attitude of cheerfulness and purity.

Humor and poetry were the primary reprieves from that atmosphere. The audience erupted into laughter at a medley of “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice and the doxology, performed by Senior Jenni Beck and Sophomore Ruthie Beck. Juniors Becca Longenecker and Emily Shenk also incited laughter, with an adaptation of “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus. EMU-specific lyrics included, “nobody’s gonna get some now,” “we can’t stop – until the library closes,” and the disappointment at seeing an attractive peer at a Mennonite-surname-laden reunion.

A group introducing themselves as “The Three Strings” made an impressive First-Year presence. Grantley Showalter stood with his cello, Wendell Baer played guitar and sang lead, and David Pence attacked the violin with a fierce concentration. They began a bit weakly with “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, but came into their own with a robust cover of “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Audience members were soon singing and swaying along with the second song.

Senior Abigail Carr was the first of four poets to take the floor. Carr spoke forcefully, reciting a Christocentric piece that called for reason and understanding out of chaos and pain. Sophomore Chris Parks also read an original poem entitled “Captive,” about the last time he fell in love. Parks’ wordcraft ranged from an abstraction of love — “I feel this power tuck me in at night, when I am not worth it” — to specific metaphor, in which Parks is a tigress, and his lover, the Euphrates River.

Senior Laura Keppley playing violin to a modern fiddle composition.

Senior Laura Keppley playing violin to a modern fiddle composition.

People thronged into the coffee shop throughout the night, ordering drinks subsidized by the CAC and discussing the acts and their personal lives. “It was the fullest it’s been in Common Grounds in a long time,” said Senior Kara Meyer, who assisted in organizing the event. The size and nature of the crowd, however, had a negative effect. Quieter musicians and poets were difficult to hear if one was not near the stage, as audience conversation fought the microphones for volume.

Sisters Alyssa Cable, Senior, and Abby Cable, First-Year, overcame spectator murmurings with a solid cover of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. Alyssa Cable sang with a country twang reminiscent of sweet tea and freckles, and alluded to an all-too-believable past in which the sisters performed in matching outfits and hair bows.

Sophomore Guilio Garner appeared undaunted by the noise, and covered “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, accompanied by Luis Martinez. Garner sang in a deep trilling voice, hands in pockets, with subtle Elvis-esque wriggles. By this fourteenth act, at about 10 p.m., people began to clear from the café. The Mraz cover and The Three Strings’ performance of “Radioactive” were favorites of Sophomore Alicia Poplett, who said “they were interesting acoustic versions.”

Erin Nafziger, Sophomore, was most impressed by Shenk and Longenecker’s second act, “Airplanes” by B.o.B. “I think it was the most original cover,” Nafziger commented.

Meyer said that future Open Mic nights are a probability. “It all depends on the student body. . . if we get good feedback, we’ll continue.”

The two downfalls of the night were audience inconsideration and an excessive musical reliance on inoffensive pop songs. Otherwise, the event was a convivial exhibition of student talent and creativity, most notably demonstrated by the poets and musicians who came with original works. The ambiance was one of expression and positivity, and I sincerely look forward to the next Open Mic.

-Randi B. Hagi, Co-Editor In Chief


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