A man half raps, half reads an excerpt of his writing about e-cigarettes and coconut water, his shadow reflected on the wall in green and orange light, moving back and forth.The crowd is rapt is by his performance, people walk by the open doorway, some stopping for a few moments, some giggle to themselves and walk on. He’s in the 193 Coffeehouse in the Memorial Union as the opening act of Etherbound’s first open mic night. Etherbound is an online magazine which features creative works by University of Rhode Island students.
The second speaker to take the stage is quieter, stumbling over his words a few times, with a bizarre poem about the friendzone and “nice guys” being ignored by women. After their performance the MC, Kellie Pendergast, a short woman with a helmet of dark hair, tells the crowd the sign-up sheet is still open for anyone who would like to perform. She welcomes a staff member of “Etherbound,” Nate Vaccaro, to the stage. Vacarro inform the crowd that their two poems will be about gender, and they preface it with a beat about “Silence of the Lambs,” saying that “although the film is problematic, there is something intriguing about the idea of wearing someone else’s skin.” These two poems are among the best of the night. They are personal and fascinating because they feel fresher and newer than many of the others.
Pendergast then reads her piece, a nonfiction story about middle school and awkwardness. It’s nostalgic in the way that makes one miss it but, simultaneously not. It’s funny and earns a chuckle from the crowd. The piece is pertinent to the speaker, her passion clear in her voice. A five-minute break follows in order for them to set up the next piece, interrupted by the first speaker resuming the stage again, more hurriedly and unpolished this time. His second poem is stronger than his first. It is about his thoughts wandering around Providence looking for a book. It’s full of literary references, but not to a fault. It’s interesting enough, perfect for the setting.
Following is a ukulele player, Zoe Comingore, practically mandatory for these events. It is a gentle, soothing sound. The night goes on, one man reads “Bump and Grind” by R Kelly. Matthew Finkley plays guitar and drums at the same time, making a Modest Mouse-like sound and a Spanish language remix of “Panda.” The night ends with Pendergast reading “I want a president,” a poem from 1992 by Zoe Leonard. The poem opens “I want a dyke for president,” the piece is every bit as raw and relevant today as it was in 1992.