Varsity Open Mic Night – a (somewhat) success

Photo - Andrew Simpson

Photo – Andrew Simpson

SEQUESTERED in a rather cramped-looking corner by the front doors of Varsity, the Halloween open mic setup resided, variously manned, variously noticed. The audience turnout was respectable – it was Halloween, come on – and so we waited for our performers.

Merlyn Cooper was the first brave soul to step up to the mic, armed with an electro-acoustic guitar and a few prepared songs. He played well, belying his self-professed deficiency, easily switching from fingerpicking to gentle strum for his original compositions ‘Wyt ti’n Pant yn y Pen’ (‘Are You Hollow in the Head’) and ‘Allan yn yr Strydoedd’ (‘Out in the Streets’). He crowns his brief set with a breezy ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, complete with broken whistling.

The embattled faces of organisers Jak Parkinson and Sam Chidgey (dressed rather anachronistically in elf gear) told its own story. While they waited for participants who never turned up, they took it in turns to regale the audience with a variety of covers. Sam’s husky voice lent itself well to old standards like ‘Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay’ and ‘Hit the Road Jack’, his strums alternatively jazzy and staccato, arresting in their variety. His version of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ included a hoedown interlude with simian whoops and yells, even throwing in a brief flamenco rhythm at the end.

Jak then took over, displaying some impressive beatbox skills on top of an earnest willingness to play ‘Wonderwall’ in an open mic scenario. He continued with the crowd pleasers, following Oasis with anthems such as David Gray’s ‘Babylon’; Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ and Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’. To Jak’s credit, his ability to pepper these songs with beatboxing added a fresh, interesting dynamic to otherwise rather rote covers. Tenacious D’s ‘Tribute’ raised the biggest cheer of the night, with Jak and Sam hilariously duetting, reverb flying; there was even an admirable attempt at the scat bit.

Though it was disappointing that some performers simply didn’t show up, those who did play commended themselves very well. Hopefully, in future, these nights will be better attended by prospective troubadours.