Portland Events Board hosted an open mic night last Wednesday in Portland’s Campus Center for no more than ten people. I sat to the side of the dimly lit “stage” where two chairs and two mics were situated as I skimmed the crowd for potential acts. There didn’t seem to be too many willing and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “USM, where is your talent?”
I was kindly answered by an energetic, amicable, and barefoot poet who insisted that the crowd refer to him as “Just Be.”
“Forget your selfish fears!” he recited from one of the three original poems he selected for the night.
When asked about his pen name, “Just Be” said: “It’s a state of mind. Sometimes I just tell myself: relax, breathe and just be.”A senior Social Work major, “Just Be” has been performing poetry for 15 years and his talent showed.
Mark Connelly happily filled the next slot in performances. With an acoustic guitar in hand, his set was based on audience requests and flowed in and out of often silly improvisation.
“It’s good to let it bounce around in your head and let it come out as it does,” said Connelly.
Travis White and Brandon Baines relieved Connelly of his duty as entertainer, covering artists like Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and Matchbox 20. Baines has been enjoying various performing arts for the past 13 years and is the reigning Maine State Yo-Yo Champion.
“The first one is always quiet,” said Baines about PEB’s monthly coffee house.
Up next was USM junior and Business Major, Jamie Frick. With help from Mark Connelly, she performed covers of artists from Sara Bareilles to Alicia Keys along with her own creative and impressive rendition of “Airplanes” by B.O.B. When asked how long she’s been singing she laughed and said, “Since I could talk.”
“It was fun collaborating with other artists tonight,” she said.
“We’re trying to connect students to downtown Portland, rather than compete with it,” said Chris O’Connor, head of PEB and organizer of the coffee house. He mentioned providing students with tickets to events held in town, including trip to watch one of Portland’s roller derby teams.
“By the second or third coffee house, it picks up,” O’Connor said.
Despite its minimal turn out, the open mic offered an intimate and laid back environment to listen to and play live music as well as meet some new people. However, having been to an open mic on the Gorham campus, I know that there’s plenty more musicians in the student body and I hereby challenge them to show their talent.