Black walls, dark furniture, dim lights, slow snaps: On first impression, Ground Zero’s Open Mic Night is intimidating, but that feeling quickly fades away as a playlist of familiar songs begin to fill the room.
Songs like Travis Scott’s “Stargazing” helped destroy whatever preconceived notions the audience had of a stereotypical open mic night, creating a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for those in the crowd and on stage.
Every Monday night, Ground Zero’s Open Mic Night serves as a creative testing ground, providing a safe space for entertainers in all fields to gauge new ideas on live listeners. Those willing to sign up and step on stage took advantage of the venue’s accepting atmosphere, debuting new songs and showcasing their talents to their peers. Members of the audience were treated to artist originals, covers of popular songs, standup comedy and a vast array of acoustic performances. One fan of the event described the sets as “feeling like experienced professionals.”
El Salvador ’93, a Ground Zero regular of two years, adrenalized the crowd with an unmatchable energy during his three-song set. Alex Kantu was next and decided to “test out” a new song that left listeners with the coveted stank face: A known expression used throughout the rap community that explains the natural look of disgust that takes over a person’s face as they hear a well-delivered set of lines.
The next performer was one of the two non-musical acts of the night, choosing to use her time to provide a comedic narrative on the hardships that accompany listening to NPR on her way to work. The other comic of the night touched on an assortment of diverse points; with topics ranging from a five- and 10 second rundown of his German and Jewish history to his previous dominatrix relationship, the second comedic act of the night received his fair share of laughs and gasps from those in attendance. Coming in as one of the few stated nonresidential performances of the night, South Jersey’s Pishon Soul Fusion carried out his first L.A. show, covering a number of classics and promising to release originals in the near future.
The standouts of the talent-filled night came in the form of musicians Valterallen, Yafeu Tyhimba and USC freshman Kyle Tolbert. All three debuted unreleased songs and covered popular artists and bands like Frank Ocean and Twenty One Pilots.
Valterallen summed up the night, stating, “It’s about coming up and expressing ourselves. We all need that.”
Tolbert, a freshman majoring in popular music and songwriting, received the loudest cheers after his performance featuring an original song titled “Bridges” and a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Nikes.” The South Carolina native gave some advice to those looking to participate in upcoming Open Mic Nights.
“Be unapologetic and fake it until you make it,” he told the crowd.
Ground Zero’s Open Mic Night is on every Monday night starting at 9 p.m.