Getting art out in the open

Adam Griffiths

A crowd gathers outside of the Kent Starbucks Tuesday for open mic night, where 25 bands signed up to play. PHOTO Rebecca Moidel, Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Jon Dirscoll and his friend Andrew Pitrone sit on the sidewalk out back at Campus Book and Supply. Both are smoking. Dirscoll, of Stow, is playing the guitar and singing as Pitrone, who is “not feeling well at all” tonight, digs through a pile of toys, including a bubble gun, an echo microphone and a toy rifle.

As Pitrone warbles into the echo microphone, the crowd erupts in laughter – a crowd of more than 100, some seated into maybe 40 chairs with the majority herded around the patio at Starbucks in Kent.

It’s Tuesday night, and it’s open mic night at Starbucks. Under the awning of Campus Book and Supply and in the glow of The Exchange’s neon sign, local musicians, stand-up comedians and political protesters have been sharing their acts since June.

Tuesday’s event was the fifth, said senior English major Lynette Bridenthal, who helped start and coordinate open mic night. She worked with freshman fine arts major Ciaran O’Keeffe, who emcees the events, to contact John Richardson, owner and manager of the Kent Starbucks.

“It’s a way to get the community included in the arts,” Bridenthal said. “It’s introducing local acts and bringing people together.”

And events like open mic night are right up Starbucks’ alley. Frappuccinos, mochas and chai teas were littered throughout the audience.

“Starbucks is interested in investing in its communities,” Richardson said. “It’s an example of the guiding principles of the company.”

Gwendolyn Blackshear of Kent, who took the stage first, said she had been to two other mic nights in the area, and she gets a sense of accomplishment from sharing her music with her community.

“I love coffee shops, and I don’t even drink coffee,” Blackshear said. “I love the atmosphere. The art and performances are complimenting to the environment. It’s such a positive influence, and that’s something we need.”

It’s first-come, first-serve to perform. Twenty-five artists signed up to perform on Tuesday’s slate, but some failed to show throughout the evening. O’Keefe sometimes called three or four names who didn’t show. Other acts Tuesday included Cleveland-native Silence of a Silhouette, a screamo-band that toned it down and delivered a mellow performance. Hal Walker and his 9-year-old daughter Hallie sang together.

With more people coming out to enjoy the show and more artists signing up to perform, open mic night is something the Kent community seems to be embracing, Bridenthal said.

Kim Childers and Cathy O’Keeffe, both of Kent, were set up in their lawn chairs in the parking lot among the crowds of rock T-shirts and tight jeans.

Cathy said she came out to support her son, Ciaran, and was glad the event was “bringing people together and showing the community in Kent.”

Childers agreed the turnout was “astonishing” and said open mic night is something that is definite progress in bringing Kent together.

“It’s art,” Childers said. “It’s getting art out in the open.”

The next open mic night is scheduled for Oct. 16. Anyone interested in performing should check in at Starbucks and sign up starting around Oct. 9. Donations are also being collected at the events to purchase more chairs and sound equipment.

Contact assistant all editor

Adam Griffiths at [email protected]