Evanston, NU foster creativity with open mic

Emilia Barrosse

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Comedians cracked jokes, poets spilled their souls and musicians blended harmonies and melodies at Kafein’s open mic night Monday.

Kafein, 1621 Chicago Ave., mixes coffee mugs with creative minds at its weekly open mic night. Every Monday at 9 p.m., locals gather at the coffee shop to perform in front of an audience of late-night coffee drinkers.

“We mostly have comedians, poets and musicians,” said Daniel Fiddler, who has hosted the show for more than six months. “Then every once in a while we’ll have something funky. Like, last week, we had a circus.”

Ever since its inception 18 years ago, Kafein has held open mic nights, said Kirill Fedorovich, a shift manager of more than three years.

Although in past years he said the event was not as popular, under new management the event has drawn more clientele than ever.

“The rise in business was even greater,” Fedorovich said. “People really like getting together to support local art.”

Throughout the night, an assorted group of performers took the stage to deliver original pieces of poetry, comedy or song as the audience watched and enjoyed food and drink. Newcomers performed along with regulars at the event, which lasted more than an hour-and-a-half.

“It’s the perfect place for anyone who’s a little unsure of themselves and who wants to try performing,” Fiddler said.

Fiddler, an aspiring musician himself, said the mic nights give him a chance to showcase his work and get his music out in the open.

“If I ever write a new song, open mic is a perfect place to try it out,” he said. “I feel the pressure at an open mic night is zero because it’s a community thing. People don’t know who you are, so if you do great, then great. If not, it doesn’t really matter.”

Laura Holman, a Communication freshman, attended the mic night for the first time Monday and said it made her feel more connected to her new home.

“It wasn’t an age (group) community or a Northwestern community,” she said. “It was an Evanston community.”

Kafein is not the only hot spot in Evanston to foster creative expression. Bill’s Blues Bar, 1029 Davis St., hosts its own open mic night on Sundays at 4 p.m. The future of these open mic nights may be in jeopardy as the bar struggles to maintain its liquor license. NU also has a forum for students to express themselves creatively. The Slam Society is a student group that organizes public gatherings where students come to listen to and recite original pieces of slam poetry.

Paul Marino, a McCormick freshman and Slam Society member, said the group gives him an opportunity to express himself that he wouldn’t normally have.

“I feel like I’ve been able to get my convictions out in the open,” Marino said. “(The Slam Society) gives poets and writers a more public area to display their work and exposes a lot of the talent that normally goes unnoticed.”

At any kind of open mic, the goal is for people to find a medium to express themselves, Fedorovich said.

“The only rule we have for open mic night is that there are no covers,” Fedorovich said. “It is 100-percent original material. Literally, you will not find this kind of art anywhere else.”emiliabarrosse2013@u.northwestern.edu