Open Mic Nights open up to new platforms

Courtesy / Spotlight Productions
Lewis Stone

Courtesy / Spotlight Productions Lewis Stone

Mary Mattingly

When you think ‘open mic night,’ the first image that might come to mind is that of sensitive hipsters playing Oasis songs on the acoustic guitar. Spotlight Productions hopes to broaden that
perspective with its edition of GVSU-based open mic nights.

“People think that (open mic nights) are just for music,” said Carter Long, the head of the Music
Committee at Spotlight Productions. “The (appeal) is wider when we open it up. Hopefully, more
people will be coming to see it and want to perform in it.”

This year, the open mic nights strive to be a platform for poets, storytellers, comics and any kind of
school-appropriate work students wish to showcase. They will take place on the first Tuesday of
every month in Area 51 in the lower level of the Kirkhof Center, with the first open mic night of the
year taking place Sept. 10. The open mic nights will run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 15-minute
time slots are available for performers.

“It’s a first come, first serve basis,” Long said.

If not all time slots are filled, performers are allowed more time onstage.

“People can stay (onstage) for as long as they want, as long they are not bumping someone else out
of their time slot,” Long said.

Jacob Guajardo, recent opener for Hal Sparks and winner of the 2013 edition of Last Laker
Standing, is in talks to host the open mic nights.

“During (past open mics), it was always clunky between performances,” Long said. “One performer
would finish, and the next would come onstage to start setting up but it never flowed well. Bringing
(Guajardo) in will smooth it out.”

The open mic nights have gained enough popularity to attract repeat performers. Lewis Stone, the
face of Hey There Laker!, is a veteran performer of Spotlight’s open mic nights. A guitarist and
singer, Stone enjoys playing medleys of pop hits and original songs.

“I like something that’s more audience participation,” Stone said. “It’s a subtle crowd control. From
onstage, it’s annoying to see the audience just sit there. I’m going to try to get everyone excited
about what I’m doing.”

Exposure to new entertainment styles is also a goal of the night.

“Going to the open mics was a way to hear new talent or see some familiar ‘veteran’ students that
had been playing at these events consecutively,” said Jessica Wagley, a member of Spotlight’s music
committee. “It was nice to see the creativity and individuality that each performer brought to the
stage. Many of them had written their own music, and some of them have gigs at coffee shops or
other venues outside of Grand Valley’s Area 51.”

The open mic nights serve as a creative outlet for student artists.

“Open mic nights spur creativity,” Long said. “It’s about being involved and practicing something,
getting up the courage to perform on stage in front of people.”

Stone enjoys performing at the open mic nights and plans to play at the first of the year.

“I like to think that I’m a born entertainer,” he said. “I like to get a reaction out of people for their
own enjoyment. Hey There Laker! has a brain.”

The people behind open mic nights hope to bring an even bigger crowd this year than in years

“We have had a positive attendance in the past, but would love to see more of the student body
present at this year’s open mic nights,” Wagley said. “With the location being in Area 51, it would
be nice to see the place a bit more cozy with more bodies filling the space.”

The open mic nights are also a way of bringing people together.

“I look forward to seeing new faces and new talent,” Wagley said. “Anyone that loves to perform
should check out this opportunity. We have had everything from poetry, sing-a-longs with the
crowd and even some serenading. Basically, each person performing brings their own uniqueness
to the table. We want this to be a fun, laid-back event.”

To book a performance time, email Carter Long at [email protected]. Those who do not book a
slot are not guaranteed stage time.

[email protected]