Tristan Begg brought diversity to the show with his bagpipe performance.
Tristan Begg brought diversity to the show with his bagpipe performance. Photos by Jenna Purcell | City on a Hill Press

Wednesday Jan. 21, the infamous date of the “Lost” premiere, for many marked an evening of staying in and snuggling with fellow die-hards. While the majority of campus was enveloped by shipwreck fanaticism, enough students to occupy every couch, chair, lap, and table of the Stevenson Coffee House crammed into the cozy café for the kickoff of a different season: winter quarter’s open mic nights.

For Sam Morrow, a third-year guitarist from Cowell and veteran of the open mic nights, the mammoth audience is characteristic of the shows.

“The crowd is always packed,” said Morrow after crooning a self-composed guitar solo. “It’s very friendly and nice to see familiar faces in the audience. The [Stevenson Coffee Shop] staff is very supportive too, it’s just a great atmosphere.”

Apparently, Morrow is one of many aspiring talents drawn to the shows’ allure. According Jonathan Reimer, the shows’ organizer and MC, performers can’t get enough of the popular venue.

“We post a [sign-up] list that allows for 20 acts. We usually end up with at least 26 or 27,” Reimer said.

Reimer, who began producing the shows last year, organizes around three shows each quarter, striving to have one each month. He was inspired to begin the open mic nights upon noticing the array of untapped flair in the UCSC community.

“There are so many talented voices that want and need to be heard,” Reimer said. “The amount of performers here shows that there aren’t enough ways for them to be heard.”

Although many of the artistic voices heard that night were well-rehearsed virtuosos, the mood remained casual. For Ben Einstein and Derek Burl, both second-year Stevenson students, this is ideal.

Alexandra Scarf and Wesley Thrailkill perform at the Stevenson Open Mic Night.

“This is really the only place we can get away with not practicing very much,” Burl admitted with a grin.

The guitar and bongo duo known as “The Manpartment,” a self-proclaimed non-band, refers to themselves instead as “a collection of dudes who play instruments.” The dudes pride themselves in taking well-known songs and tweaking the lyrics for an original flavor.

Act’s like The Manpartment’s seemed to do the trick for audience member and Stevenson first-year Carol Wilson.

“I think this is great,” Wilson said. “There’s so much talent here, and it’s really nice to see [the performers] outside of the classroom situation.”

For fellow audience member Brey Foltyn, also a Stevenson first-year, the change in context was not enough to mask the acoustic guitar frenzy on campus.

“This is cool, but I think there are too many guitarists,” Foltyn said while gesturing to the back wall lined with Martin and Epiphone-toting performers in waiting. “I think it’d be nice to see more variety.”

Ask and you shall receive. As the show continued, an array of guitar-less acts sprang up, including a bagpipe solo, slam poetry, and stand-up comedian Nathan Habib. A first-year from Cowell and seasoned performer, Habib killed the crowd with relatable humor oozing cynical charm.

Guitarist Ben Greenlee dedicates Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" to audience member Deirdra Angelucci.

“Performing at open mic nights is so much fun,” Habib said. “It’s different from performing at clubs, there’s more of a connection with people my own age. I get to say all the things I know everyone is thinking, and if they laugh, it’s because it’s true.”

During his set, along with jabs at the inauguration, Abercrombie and Fitch, and of course, girls, Habib also expressed animosity toward the abundance of guitarists, lamenting their uncanny ability to woo the opposite sex.

To further prove Habib’s point later in the show, Stevenson first-year and guitarist Ben Greenlee dedicated his rendition of Jason Mraz‘s “I’m Yours” to a smitten Deirdra Angelucci, a “girl he’s been falling for.” The performance, and enamored embrace following, provoked a chorus of “awws” and whistles as the two left giggling.

According to Burl, these sort of responses are what make the Stevenson open mic nights so appealing.

“It’s a great way for everyone to get to know each other, especially the freshman class,” Burl said. “You’ve got this nice community of musicians and artists. If you have a talent, it’s a good way to share it with your peers.” He laughed. “We’re all about sharing here at the Stevenson Coffee Shop.”