Photos by Chris Crews
Arriving at the Popp Martin Student Union for Open Mic Fest, I was first filled with excitement watching preparations for what appeared to be a rather sizable event. Planned and hosted by Radio Free Charlotte staff, Open Mic Fest was intended to showcase UNC Charlotte student singers, rappers, bands and poets. There was a large stage for the performers, colorful lighting and plenty of photographers and videographers ready to capture the event. All that was missing was the audience.
As the starting time, 7 p.m., came and passed I became concerned that anyone who decided to attend would likely leave upon realizing that the event had yet to begin. With coordinators and Radio Free Charlotte staff scrambling to finish setting up, the lights dimmed and at about 7:45 p.m., and the first performer took the stage.
Unfortunately, as predicted the only audience the artists had were their fellow performers, along with the event coordinators. It seems music related events almost never succeed with UNC Charlotte students, but with all the expectations I had leading to Open Mic Fest I was sorely disappointed with the turnout. Not only was audience attendance lacking, but there were also no more than five artists to perform.
The genres represented were also a bit disappointing, with four of the five artists being rappers. Even being a slight fan of rap, I was hoping for more diversity among the artists. Performing artists included rappers Justino, Lazy Luke, Saint Judah, Ricky Blanco and duo rock band Nick and Mike.
The bright spot of the evening was, of course, the actual performances given by the artists. Given so few in attendance, each artist was able to perform multiple original songs to truly demonstrate their talent. Justino started the night strong, making an effort to hype the few audience members. Following was Lazy Luke and Saint Judah, who worked the stage well. Ricky Blanco was my favorite rapper of the night with his quick lyrics and confident performance, and Nick and Mike ended the night with a debut of their original song, “Tease.”
Even with the poor attendance, Radio Free Charlotte station manager Caroline Hewett seemed pleased with the event. Her goal, she says, in planning Open Mic Fest was to “bring up the spirits” of students nearing the end of the year and to host an event that “could reach anyone.”
Open Mic Fest was an excellent effort to reach the UNC Charlotte campus community and showcase student talent, but unfortunately didn’t have the desired effect.