Open Mic Nights in Davis celebrate talent and creative expression

Whether or not you’ve ever been to, heard of or performed at an Open Mic night in Davis, the scene certainly has a lot to offer in the way of creativity and eclectic performance. MUSE profiles SickSpits Open Mic and Poetry Night at Bistro 33.

Whether or not you’ve ever been to, heard of or performed at an Open Mic night in Davis, the scene certainly has a lot to offer in the way of creativity and eclectic performance. MUSE profiles SickSpits Open Mic and Poetry Night at Bistro 33.

SickSpits Open Mic

Mannie Rizvi, a UCD first-year and brand new member of Sickspits, recites her poem with passion and feeling at the group’s first ever Delta of Venus performance.

“I sweat the screams of brown girls covered in black cloth / Nearly undocumented by Discovery Channel cameras /Afraid of filming North Pakistan /Even though insects rest on young faces there too.”

SickSpits is a spoken word collective that takes place the first Tuesday of every month in Griffin Lounge, and more recently, every third Tuesday at Delta of Venus. Members of the group recite poems, songs and other creative works to a room that is usually packed with UCD students. For anyone not on the official SickSpits roster that wishes to perform, there is a sign-up sheet made available usually an hour before every show.

“We get a crazy variety of artists: musicians and rappers and beat boxers, assholes who want to shout at everybody, kazoo players. You know, the usual,” said Shannon Harney, host of SickSpits open mic nights and a UCD alumnus.

“We decided the open mic should be open to everyone so that we could get this incredible variety and showcase all talents; not just poetry,” said Azizah Ahmad, UCD alumnus and former member of SickSpits.

Originally called Ill Literacy, SickSpits was established when the founding members of the group decided they wanted to leave Davis and tour nationally. Then-student Simone Davis, who had been a member of Ill-Literacy, became the president of the new collective left in their place.

“Seeing that our open mics were so popular, we decided to hook up with Campus Union with the help of the poetry slam coach Lexer Chou who use to work for Campus Union and found a monthly home for the open mic series. And it’s been going strong since then,” Ahmad said.

SickSpits embodies in its name the art of “spitting,” or a raw method of delivering slam poetry.

“It pretty much means exactly what the name implies,” said Tamara Flaherty, member of SickSpits and a junior at UCD.

Due to budget cuts that caused many school branches to either shut down or align themselves with other branches, the SickSpits Open Mic night was canceled this month for the first time in their five years of running. The Center for Student Involvement (CSI) is now taking care of the SickSpit organizational file.

Many UCD students look forward to monthly open mic nights as a means of breaking from schoolwork and embracing creative expression.

“I found out about SickSpits last year because I was trying to explore things that would get me out of the dorms and more involved in the culture on campus,” said sophomore art history major Kyra Simon.

Upcoming performances will take place on Feb. 2 in Griffin Lounge and on Feb. 16 at Delta of Venus. Both shows will begin at 7 p.m.

Bistro 33

If SickSpits is a voice for the UCD student populace, Bistro 33 is a melting pot for the multifarious voices and perspectives of the Davis community. Dimmed lights, lit candles, red table-clothes, walls adorned with landscape paintings and middle-aged couples sipping wine contribute to an ambiance that is more refined and less casual than a SickSpits open mic setting.

Hosted by Andy Jones and Brad Henderson, Bistro 33 poetry nights take place every first and third Wednesday of the month on 226 F St. Featured readers usually include Davis residents and traveling poets.

“Surreal pairings of angry beat poetry monologues mashed up against John Mayer wannabes and Irish comics. Surrealist humorists and jazz scat singers. Scathing representations.” This is how Lloyd Waldo, a UC Davis alumnus, would describe the more eclectic aspects of Bistro 33 poetry nights.

Waldo took one of Jones’ courses in the summer of 2006. He said that Jones became a mentor to him, introducing Waldo to the English department poetry readings at the now defunct Café Roma on 3rd St.

“He was interested in continuing with a weekly poetry event that could include the community and some excellent area poets as well,” Waldo said in an e-mail interview. “The crowd when it started out was definitely eclectic – it included Andy and Brad’s upper middle class liberal feminist post-modern academic types to bartender wanna-be stand up comics from Sacramento.”

Waldo said that many of the poets Jones knows are academics and middle-aged, but he also features young and promising performers and encourages many of his students to submit work during the open mics.

One such young and promising performer is Chris Erickson, a UC Davis graduate who has been going to Bistro 33 Poetry Night since he moved to Davis with his wife in the fall of 2005. It wasn’t until he enrolled as a grad student in 2007 that Erickson started performing.

He recommends Bistro 33 to any students that enjoy performing and hearing poetry.

“Not only is it free, but it gives you a chance to practice in a nice place with a great sound system. My readings have certainly improved thanks to Dr. Andy Jones and Poetry Night at Bistro 33.”

Waldo agreed that people should be more proactive about taking up the opportunity Jones is providing with the Bistro 33 venue, calling it a blessing to the school and the community.

For more information on Bistro 33, you can join the Facebook group “Poetry in Davis.”

ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.