Open-mic night at Kafein offers quirky acts

Grace Johnson

The “Dirty Smurf” isn’t the only reason Kafein is different from other Evanston cafes. In addition to the scantily-named shake, the cafe hosts weekly open-mic nights featuring love songs about alligators and histrionic poetry readings.

Every Monday a heterogeneous slew of Northwestern students, Evanston locals and middle-aged folk from all over Chicago fill nearly every table inside the cafe, 1621 Chicago Ave., to hear from open-mic regulars as well as newcomers to the event.

Daniel Fiddler, 21, a student at Oakton Community College, has been hosting open-mic night at Kafein for more than a year, supplementing his day job as a member of his “boogie rock” band, Dr. Kevorkian and The Volunteers.

“I try to keep up an energy throughout the night,” Fiddler said.

At the beginning and end of the night, as well as in between performers, Fiddler performs what he describes as “love songs” about alligators and insects.

The mismatched chairs and red velvet drapes provide the backdrop for the night’s performers, about a quarter of which are from NU.

By 9 p.m. the place is bursting at the seams, with lumberjack-esque waiters clad in matching plaid shirts maneuvering around the crowd to deliver desserts like “The Passion of the Cookie” sundae or the Caramel Zombie drink.

Kafein attracts newcomers both to the cafe crowd and the list of open-mic performers. Max Pardo, a senior at Arizona State University and a Long Grove native, performed for the first time Monday with Yana Genchanok, a University of Illinois junior from Buffalo Grove. The duo has no name for their act of break-up songs paired with an acoustic guitar and a charango, a South American mandolin.

Jodi Kirk, 39, of Chicago often performs her comedy act at the open-mic. Kirk is currently working on a one-person show about what a dog groomer does on a day-to-day basis.

“I like it because you have your music and your poetry,” Kirk said. “People can do whatever they want on stage.”

If anyone ever feels nervous before performing, Fiddler immediately puts them at ease.

Before launching into a song, Fiddler told the crowd, “I’ll embarrass myself right now so none of the other performers have to worry about it.”

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