After he heard his name called from a list, local resident Chris Lefler walked to the corner of the Beanhive’s dining area, where a microphone and music stand awaited him. The open mic night was held on April 2. While he began to strum an original song on his electric guitar, latecomers sifted in and a worker bustled behind the counter.
“That was supposed to be better than that,” said Lefler, fumbling over finger placements. “It’s a new song.”
Music devotees gather at the coffee shop on the first Tuesday night of each month, where Professor of Environmental Studies Ben Farrer hosts the community Songwriter’s Open Mic. During the Open Mic, attendees can share music, poetry and other vocal forms of expression.
The downtown cafe has been hosting the event since its owner, Mary Christianson, bought the shop in 2012. Farrer, a music enthusiast, has hosted the event for the past three years.
“I love hosting the Open Mic at the Beanhive. It’s a really cool, supportive I think the most supportive music scene I’ve ever been in,” Farrer said. “A friendly, easy place; if you haven’t played [in public] before, I feel like it’s a good first.”
A musician himself, Farrer has engaged with music scenes in different locales. With stricter stipulations and less supportive environments, he described open mics in other cities to be a bit daunting at times. Farrer credits the owner Christianson, with creating a judgment-free zone in the cafe, both during regular hours of operation and the extended hours when community members join to share their talents.
With the only stipulation being to perform a song that is original, their goal is to create a space where people of all skill levels can be creative: a space that was otherwise missing in the diverse music scene of Galesburg.
“There are some performers, especially older members of the Galesburg community, who have been playing for decades … and they come in and play. Then we have people come in from the middle school to play for the first time, and obviously they haven’t played for decades – so it’s a different skill level,” Farrer said. “I think what we’re trying to do is create an environment where both of those people feel equally welcome.”
For April’s open mic, sophomore Milo Camaya did an unrehearsed, impromptu performance with junior Soleil Smith, in which the two accompanied one another on their own original songs. Camaya’s original song, “Montello, WI” was written about a friend’s cabin they visited which was away from everything– running water included.
Camaya attended the Beanhive event for the first time with plans to return in the future Ð next time with more practice.
“It’s just a good space,” Camaya said. “You walk in and there’s coffee behind the counter, and there’s someone singing with an acoustic guitar and it’s just, good vibes Ð and everyone’s supportive, after every performer goes up there, everyone’s like ‘yeah woo!’ You know?”
Farrer believes the event allows a space for the Knox and Galesburg communities to interact on a more personal level.
“Sometimes we’ve had people come in and play songs, people who are going through the worst times in their lives, and just the chance to get up there and let it out I think is a really important function … Sometimes we have people coming in playing a song for their crush É and they’re having one of the best times in their life,” Farrer said.
Senior Pei Koroye attended the event for the first time last Tuesday. They performed an original song titled, “The End of the World (It’s Not as Bad as You Think),” which was about reckoning with their inability to get married or freely express their sexuality back home in Nigeria, in a time they felt most comfortable being queer.
“The funny thing about the song is everytime you play it with a different ukulele, it either sounds more sad or more happy,” said Koroye. “It’s really fun; I played it originally with my ukulele, I played it with a friend’s, and when I played it with [the Beanhive’s ukulele] it sounded a lot more upbeat and happy, and it made me happy at the time.”
Koroye always has noticed the way people are able to bond and connect over music, as they did with their family listening to Top 40 on Sundays. For Koroye, making and listening to music is therapeutic, and a powerful way to make people feel things. While house shows used to be an integral part of Koroye’s campus experience, that aspect of Galesburg’s music scene vanished after their freshman year. Koroye found it reinvigorating to see local artists sharing themselves through the open mic.
“The person right before me was singing in French, and I was like, ‘this is exactly what I needed right now’” said Koroye. “I see myself going again.”
The Songwriter’s Open Mic takes place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, at 124 E. Simmons St.