For once, the stoic Stokes amphitheater was used as just that—an amphitheater. The venue has been around for almost two years, and students can still be seen ambling their way up and across wondering why exactly the campus needs an amphitheater—before conceding that it looks pretty neat and deciding to leap up and down it with controlled abandon. But not on Thursday night. On Thursday night, it was the forum in which the Music Guild of Boston College hosted one of its annual, staple events: the open mic.
An impromptu stage was erected in front of the stone seating as an eager collection of acoustic guitar-bearing students sat in the corner and on the stone benches. Sometimes the echoing chords would attract some night owl on his or her way to a night in Bapst for a couple minutes. For the most part, however, the event’s main audience of around 30 students stuck around the full two hours.
Griffin Robillard, A&S ’17, got the event started with a folksy tune, breaking out the harmonica for the performance. Ben Shapiro, CSOM ’16, played next, stripping down The Strokes’ “Someday” and Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” The tone for the evening was, for the most part, set at this point: artists with acoustic guitars strumming a few songs the audience knew, and some they didn’t. A few of Thursday night’s artists, however, brought something a little different to the table.
Open mics are, if anything, consistently unpredictable—in quality, sure, but more so tone. Go to an a cappella show and the atmosphere there will surely be one of strong community, because few people love a cappella groups more than a cappella groups themselves.
But the open mic is a unique animal. An open mic is different in sound, typically acoustic, which can be a joy or a pain depending on your preferences. And again depending on your preferences, you might find yourself taken by the sweeping harmonica solos at these events. More often than not, it’s a solitary occasion. You head up with your guitar with some covers in mind, or a brave, original song. So as the sun went down and the temperature dropped from long-sleeve tee to full sweatshirt weather, each artist went up the stage with the simple message: “Here’s some music, hope you like it.”
About 30 minutes in, a portion of the band Juice stepped onto the stage. With a keyboard, guitar, and violin, its sound surprisingly fit the amphitheater exceedingly well. It played Kanye West’s criminally underrated “Hey Mama,” and an original tune, which built up quite nicely, though it might have been drawn out a couple minutes too long.
Later in the night, Lucas Brewington, A&S ’15, provided yet another flavor to contrast with Juice and its guitar wielding comrades. Brewington stepped into the keyboard, and like many in his cohort, leaned on the past with a cover from the The Band (this is probably one of your dad’s favorite bands). But Brewington also performed an original song, which evoked some of the quiet melancholy of The National. It was a pleasantly sad moment, coming just as the amphitheater had grown pleasantly cold.
Despite its public debut on the Stokes lawn, open mics are still primarily events run for prospective musicians and to foster community between musicians. They’re a way for musicians to meet other musicians, and you can see this in how they react with each other through the night. Artists might play a 10-minute set, staying around some after, and then mingle a bit. But rather than sticking to the sheltered Vanderslice Cabaret Room, this open mic took place out in the open. It made for some pleasant background music where middle campus meets upper, and also allowed for a more open and inclusive forum for BC musicians and their audience.
Anthony Perasso and Tom O’Boyle, both A&S ’17, capped off the night’s modest festivities. They had a nice, layered acoustic style. Despite their enthusiasm, the duo’s sound was not as clean as some of the other performers but they were one of the more engaging. One of the best moments of the event happened when, mid-cover of Blink 182’s “Carousel,” the two went headfirst (although heartfirst may be more fitting) into some Taylor Swift before returning to the end of “Carousel.” Whether it was planned or not, it was a fun way to end the night.
Featured Image by Celine Lombardi / For The Heights