Open Mic Night Provides a Stage for Jammin’ Anteaters

Gather ‘round the campfire… that is, the Phoenix Grille, for Open Jam’s first Open Mic Night of the 2014-2015 school year!

Musical Anteaters of all skill levels and styles took over the Phoenix Grille Oct. 8 from 6-8 p.m. Artists plugged in their amps while the audience tuned in for an intimate, eclectic, acoustic night. Highlighting UCI student-musicians young and old, new and experienced, Open Jam’s Open Mic Nights encourage any musician to feel welcome and comfortable performing in front of an audience.

Open Jam’s “first and foremost goal is to create opportunities for musicians in the UCI community to perform,” according to their Facebook page. Open Mic Night allows for any musician to freely express themselves without fear of judgment or ridicule.

Nick Green, a fourth year student and co-president of Open Jam, explains Open Jam’s philosophy as one of the few music clubs on campus: “I would like for Open Jam to be more of a scene than a club, a family with people who hang out together and chill, which would lead to musical collaborations and foster partnerships. We have always been a small tight-knit community, but I hope we will have a more sizable impact with everyone connected in some way.”

Besides Open Mic Nights, Open Jam hosts Gig Night a few times a year. Gig Night is more “professional and selective,” Green says. “It is geared towards band performances—a fuller thing. You have to try-out for it and I would like to see more original bands audition [this year].”

To kick off the new school year, Open Jam’s first Open Mic Night included a variety of genres and influences, from an acoustic Maroon 5 cover to a ukulele medley. Some musicians, like Tim McCormack, took the opportunity to fully express themselves through original material.

For singer and guitarist Jenny Cevallos, Open Mic Night was her first time playing on a live stage. She only started playing guitar over the summer and has already found an environment that supports her musical endeavors. Meanwhile, more seasoned musicians like Alejandro Herrera and Alina Kano—both UCI and Open Jam alumni—took to the stage for incredible performances to close out the show.

Some performances stood out for their novelty, like a traditional Indian song strummed on a sitar, adding a much-appreciated ethnic diversity to the night. Blake Robenstein also shook up the acoustic rock and R&B-filled night with his poetic side. His spoken word recalled the attitude and style of Allen Ginsberg’s beatnik poems, garnering him congratulatory snaps at the end rather than traditional applause.

Make no mistake: acoustic guitars can still rock, as demonstrated by Derek Gladstone and Open Jam co-president Christopher Khalife’s rendition of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down,” which fulfilled everyone’s middle school fantasies of seeing the archetypal scene band live. Gladstone channeled Patrick Stump’s vocals with Khalife somehow making an acoustic guitar still shred.

Later, Khalife, a fourth year computer science major, covered The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” solo. He says he “never sang or played acoustic guitar in front of an audience before tonight,” proving that it really is never too late to step outside one’s comfort zone and try something new.

Khalife elaborates, “Open Jam is a tight group of friends who are all like-minded. [The club] creates an environment of music fans who like the same music and can be together. We give people the opportunity to perform for the first time in front of a non-judgmental audience and to do things they may not have done otherwise without fear of being lashed out at.”

Kano, a UCI graduate, recounts her own introduction to Open Jam, “I was looking for a music club as a freshman and have always been shy. This community is so supportive and welcoming, which is why I stayed in it all of college. Your performance could be awful but no one really cares, so you can overcome your fears.”

Khalife explained his deep personal connection to music, saying, “I have spent the past 7 years just constantly playing in bands so I have had the pleasure of meeting tons of talented musicians at shows. Not only did I become a better musician through those experiences, but I would say that I grew as a person too. Music is not just a hobby for me, it’s basically my life.”

Open Jam welcomes musicians of any talent and even Anteaters who simply love listening and talking about music who may not be musically-inclined themselves. Check out their Facebook page and watch out for the next Open Mic Night, coming Week 3.