What started as a way to engage students during the pandemic has become a post-pandemic staple for UMN artists.
The Whole Music Club welcomed performers of all skills and talents to a crowded and welcoming student audience.
Since Whole’s Open Mic Night began on Zoom during the pandemic, the motivation behind the event has grown from simply engaging University of Minnesota students to being an outlet for first-time artists to get a taste of what it’s like to happen.
For some performers, this taste is intoxicating; Nolan Litschewski, the planner for the open mic night, said some students return monthly to perform for their peers.
In the basement of Coffman Union is the Whole Music Club: a space that brings the university community together through music. Worn chalkboard walls and columns covered in old flyers make the place feel more like a newly renovated creative space than a concert hall.
Q Ho brought his handmade effects box setup to the event and was the only artist to unplug the microphone and wow the crowd with just a guitar. They came out of their borders. “If I can handle playing in front of a crowd, I should be able to handle anything,” Ho said.
Recent graduate Jame Moua wowed the crowd with their use of a looper pedal to tune in to themselves. It was one of Moua’s New Year’s resolutions to attend at least one open mic night a week. Another resolution? Networking with artists. Moua came to The Whole to “try to connect with other people”.
Anirudh Ganesh was looking for stand-up opportunities, and after their friend signed up to sing, they added themselves to the roster a day before the event. Ganesh then, quite impressively, wrote a comprehensive campus security dossier the night before that came full circle on a bit of a spoon-point mugging.
After the event is over, the artists will meet, exchange information and discuss each other’s performances. Litschewski described it as a writer’s tour.
“Everyone just talks about the things they liked about each other,” Litschewski said. “[The performers] definitely, at this point, recognize yourself.
Part of the draw of the open mic night is these connections between the artists. As open mic night gets busier, people make more connections; which will ultimately benefit them in their musical endeavours. Litschewski added that local recording studios have already verified the event.
Just sitting in the crowd there is a sense of connection with the performers.
“Everyone is seated at a table and it’s a very intimate setting,” Litschewski said. This intimacy creates interactions between the audience and the performer. In the most unusual act of the night, a stand-up comedian pretended to laugh at the fall of a made-up joke in order to prove to their mother that the open-mic night had gone well.
What keeps artists coming back is the welcoming atmosphere. When the performers finish their set, walking through the crowd back to their seats is a victory lap of compliments from those you’re trying to get around. Even if you’re a new performer, “you’ll never feel like their performance is different from people who’ve done it every time,” Litschewski said.
“Open mic night is a lot of other students trying to find their way in the world,” Moua said. This student-to-student connection is what makes Whole Music Club Open Mic Night a uniquely supportive setting for performers and an engaging experience for audiences.
As for the event’s future, Litschewski said, “I want to see some juggling.”
Open mic night is a free event returning April 19 with doors at 7 p.m. and a 7:30 p.m. show, which is also streaming on the Whole Music Club YouTube channel.