The UTM Music Club’s open mic nights are a way to experience the campus’s greatest musical talents under one roof. The year’s first such event took place in the MiST theatre, where the dimmed lighting, minimal decorations, vibrating chatter, and excitable atmosphere transformed a boring lecture hall into an old-school jazz club.
The evening began with the lively MCs Jason, Katherine, and comically late Moe. Their enthusiasm set the mood for the show. The crowd was small, probably due to the lack of advertising for the show, but loud and loyal. Chairs and microphones sat on the stage, ready for the performers, as well as a keyboard, drum set, and acoustic guitar that dwarfed the accompanying podium.
The most memorable part of the night was undoubtedly the audience’s responses to the performers. It was as if UMC and the crowd were actually a big group of friends, interacting without a trace of awkwardness. The disorganization of the show was evident but at least contained, as the MCs and the audience interacted while volunteers handled technical difficulties on the side. The musicians then immersed themselves in their performances, complemented by tapping feet, cheerful encouragements, video recording, and the occasional “I love you!” from the audience.
First to perform was Arvin Huang on the violin. He asked the audience to throw songs at him and he performed them all with skill and confidence. Among the songs suggested were “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen (which many sang along to) and the theme songs of Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter (which brought many nostalgic “aww”s), and Super Mario Brothers. He then surprised the audience by playing a complicated piece by Bach to perfection. Then, almost ironically, he performed Britney Spears’s hit pop single Toxic and left the small crowd laughing and excited for more.
Next up was Alice Li, who sang a Lady Gaga medley songs in her powerful voice and accompanied herself at the keyboard.
After Li came Karl Go, a nervous singer with a guitar. He embraced the friendliness of the audience and started up a conversation about his week and everyone’s midterms to calm himself down and prepare for his performance. Go’s voice shook but it complemented his song choice. He serenaded the audience with a low, melodic, sensual cover of Toxic by Britney Spears. Go’s performance was my favourite of the night, as his relatable aura and his sweet rendition of the pop song made it seem like he was singing solely to you.
Amina Abdel Wahab was next, and she claimed the stage with her original song “Seven Cigarettes”, a song Wahab said was about her father. Her emotional lyrics told a powerful story and the passion in her performance left us wondering about the content.
An impromptu performance by Barten followed Wahab with his original acoustic guitar solo “The Road”, a song dedicated to his friend who was going through a tough time. He explained that the instrumental song came in three parts: the first signified frustration, completed with harsh strums and banging on the body of his guitar. The second was about opportunity, where he repeated a knocking pattern while strumming, and the final part consisted of sweeter and lighter strums that told a story of friendship.
The audience’s excitement continued as Rabee Bakriyah came on next with a classic Arabic instrument, the oud and following him was Mohammad Mansour and his younger brother, Li’l Moe, followed, where they sang a Nirvana song with an accompanying electric guitar backing played by Li’l Moe.
Next was an impromptu performance from Vinh Nguyen on the piano performing an original piece named “Cold Fronts” about this autumn season.
Next was Victoria Trotman, who sang an original a capella with another distinctive voice and a big smile on her face, accompanied by thrilled friends in the audience.
Nearing the end of the show, Nader’s band, “The Lizards”, came to perform. The performers rocked out on stage and, despite some distracting technical drumming difficulties, got the crowd moving.
The night finished off with an impromptu singing performance by Victor, and a bonus performance that consisted of all of the performers coming together and singing a medley while the audience exited. Loud cheering and clapping marked the end of a successful night and the conversation as the audience left seemed hopeful for more such nights.