Preview: Don José Marti Open Mic

This Sunday, November 13th, from 7pm – 10pm at the Rackham Graduate School, The Beta Upsilon chapter of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc. are hosting their second annual Don José Marti Open Mic! 

This Open Mic is inspired by one of Beta’s pillars, Don José Marti, who was a Cuban nationalist, poet, journalist, and publisher who is considered a hero in the Latin American liberation movement. This event will represent a large variety of art forms: They welcome writers, musicians, vocalists, actors, dancers, and visual artists to present their artwork or perform in front of a live audience. I specifically liked that they mentioned that performers of all skill levels are welcomed in the Performance Application form. I’ve been to a few open mic events, and have been wanting to expose myself to more. There will also be food catering by a Latin American Cuban Cuisine. If you like poetry, spoken word, short stories, music, dances, visual arts, acting, and photography, this is the event for you! Seems like it will be an exciting night of appreciating and celebrating the arts! 

Make sure to fill out the RSVP Guest Form!

REVIEW: The Moth StorySLAM

At 7:00 PM last Tuesday Night, The Blind Pig in downtown Ann Arbor was bustling with conversation. Red and blue lights illuminated rows of black folding chairs surrounding a small stage. A Moth StorySLAM – a night of spontaneous, intimate, live storytelling – was about to take place!

Half an hour before the show started, the host asked for ten volunteers from the audience to spontaneously sign up to tell a story revolving around the night’s chosen theme: Fortune. After some encouragement and warnings that “the show won’t start until we get ten names in the bag!” there were eleven people signed up.

Before the first storyteller stepped up to the stage, I got a bit nervous. I remembered that the storytellers featured on The Moth podcast got months of coaching on how to engage people with their stories. These people had spontaneously signed up half an hour before! I didn’t know what to expect.

In the end, it was better than the podcast by far.

All kinds of people stepped up to the stage: a Michigan alum whose life was changed by one decision by a football player, a man who started his own consulting firm for nonprofit companies, a woman raised in the backwoods of Alaska and dreamed of moving to Detroit. Most of the storytellers came from walks of life I have never walked before, and yet I felt such a strong connection to each of them. Each one was so genuine and human – they stuttered on stage, they called out to their relatives sitting in the crowd, they sometimes had to take a moment after remembering something triggering.

After each story, the host would get back up and regale the audience with little “story slips” – pieces of paper with short story prompts on them that anonymous audience members had filled out and put in a basket at the front. They were all hilarious to hear. In the meantime, three groups of audience members who served as unofficial judges – the “Fortune Cookies”, the “Fortune Tellers”, and “Serendipity” – decided on a score out of ten to award the storyteller. They held up pieces of paper with numbers on them to whoops and hollers, and the next storyteller stepped up to the stage! It was the coolest combination of intimacy and newness – like sitting around a cozy fireplace with faces I had never seen before.

If you missed out on this event, never fear! Another StorySLAM is happening in Ann Arbor on December 14th, 2021 with the theme: Beginnings.

REVIEW: Xylem’s Crazy Wisdom Open Mic

Poetry has never been something I can simply sit down and write. If ever I attempt to do this, I end up with an oversimplification of the same few themes (love, sadness, anger, death) every time. So, I’m forced to be the submissive partner in the relationship, listening to an idea whenever it decides to show up. In terms of neat scheduling, the pursuit of poem writing is majorly inconvenient.

But beyond my personal gripes lies a reluctant reverence for poets and their poems. There is difficulty in writing something in a tone from another dimension of being that also doesn’t make everyone in the world roll their eyes back into their heads.

In general, when people try to write a poem, they do not succeed. English teachers may yell at me for saying that it’s only possible to either succeed or fail at an art form, that that simple dichotomy could even exist. They may argue that instead of two boxes marked pass and fail there is a whole grey spectrum of middle ground. Personally, I would disagree; it is very clear to me when a poem is striking, while others are dull or trying too hard, or relying on overused subject matter.

At any open mic, there will be a real variety of performances. This is why I find these events so much more promising than a single artist presenting their work: no matter how many pieces there are that fall short, at least one will stick with you.

This is the thought I had when I walked into the cozy room in the second floor of Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room. There were cookies and hand-clapper noisemakers (maybe snapping has gone out of style?), and the house was packed.

At least 15 or 20 people read or sang, coming from both comedic and tragic angles. Even I, possessed by something not of this world (probably), stood to read a poem I’d written for a class.

Most of the readings were good; in the writing world at least, most people who have confidence in their work have it for good reason. Of course, there are so many more good writers out there who lack confidence entirely. I’m certain that there were some of those talents among us who didn’t read.

My favorites from the evening are the ones I can remember now, a day later. One of the first was a poem about a serendipitous encounter with amazing lettuce at a Wendy’s, another a published piece by a reluctant reader, an extended metaphor of a jar of honey, a spot-on cover of “Oh Comely” by Neutral Milk Hotel. The audience was responsive, quick to laugh and clap when the writing called for it. A few of the writers came up twice, displaying the different facets of their writing styles. The room was warm with the glow of poetry and evidence that Crazy Wisdom pays their heat bill on time. In more ways than one, I felt the place a shelter from the cold.

Xylem Magazine hosts open mics often, as well as other events like writing workshops. Check out their website for more information!


PREVIEW: Xylem’s Crazy Wisdom Open Mic

Some people look to celebrities for fashion or lifestyle inspiration, fawning over their manicured looks and multi-million dollar homes. Personally, I aspire to be half as cool as Beret Girl from An Extremely Goofy Movie.

You know her, that poet from the Bean Scene coffee shop. Definitely the ultimate cool girl, even though she’s a fictional character.

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Anyhow, if our dreams to become anything like her are to come to fruition, we need to first bust into the open mic scene.

We’re in luck: Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom is hosting an open mic night Wednesday, November 28 from 7-9 PM. Bring your poems, your spoken word performance, those bars of slam poetry you’ve been waiting to give to the world. Or, you can just bring your ears and absorb the cool atmosphere, find a good book, and drink some tea. Whatever you choose, this is the place to be this Wednesday night.

REVIEW: The Ark Open Stage (Open Mic)

The only way to go to an open mic is to go open-minded. What I immediately liked about the Ark was that it had a much more open atmosphere than more traditional open mic venues like coffee shops.

Bradley playing “Strange”

The emcee for the night drew 15 names out of a star-covered bucket and the first performer, Bradley, came to the stage. Dressed like any other run-of-the-mill Ann Arbor hipster, he explained that he hadn’t expected to play. Then he belted out two incredibly well-crafted songs on guitar, harmonica, and piano that sounded polished enough to be heard on the radio.

Not everyone who came to the stage was polished, but they didn’t have to be. A guitarist named Max belted out his original “Snow in July” that sounded great as a raw, unfinished sound.

One of the pairs of the night, Remington Taylor, performed using only the piano as an accompaniment to their voices, and they were magnetic. Their songs of heartbreak and romance was in the vein of Once and Begin Again, but without an acoustic guitar.

Which brings me to the caveat about this event: come expecting to hear a lot of acoustic guitar and heartbreaking ballads. One song was title “Heart Shattered Like My Bones”–about a boy of course. The girl who announced did so with a “haha it’s dramatic I know I didn’t really mean it–but seriously that’s how I felt” vibe.

Even though each performer only had eight minutes, seeing and hearing acoustic pieces again and again started to sound a bit repetitive.


open-stage-2Then a young strapping lad named Kellen Marceau took the stage and sang his original pieces “Your Boyfriend” and “What if We Broke Up and Zombies Came.” Think Zooey Deschanel writing a break up song except weirder–and funnier.

Overall, open stage is not a bad way to spend your night, especially when it’s raining outside and the cost of admission is only $2. If you’re going though, I recommend that you don’t play acoustic guitar.


PREVIEW: The Ark Open Stage (Open Mic)

Have you been honing those keytar skills throughout winter break and want to show off? Want to show off the results of all that practice singing to yourself in the car on your morning commute?

This is your chance!

On Wednesday, January 11th at 8 PM, 15 performers will be invited to the stage at the Ark for 8 minute performances each.

Sign up: 7:30

Selection: 7:45 and 8:30

It’s only $2 for students!

As the Ark states on its web site, locally famous acts such as Dick Siegel to nationally known artists like Gilda Rader have performed at open stage.