In an interlude between a spoken word poem and an acoustic cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” the managers of the Horn Gallery enlightened the vibrant crowd on the history of where they were standing. Like the best Kenyon stories, the managers claimed the founding of the Horn Gallery began with Philander Chase. Chase, standing before a battered and rickety barn, recognized that this would be the ideal location for stand-up comedy, mosh pits and the occasional ukulele cover of Vance Joy’s “Riptide.”
People like Annie Blackman ’20 may have been the kind of performers Chase had in mind. Talking over a folk ballad that pulsated from the gallery, the singer-songwriter had nothing but encouragement and praise for first years and newcomers who were willing to cast aside their own worries and add to the vibrant harmony of poets, singers, DJs, comedians and generally creative minds gathered there. Blackman, who has been performing at Open Mic since her first year at Kenyon, reflected on what kept her and her friends coming back. For me, it is an amazing place for creative concentration,” she said.
It was this very altruism that led Hoolian—stage name of Julian Shaw ’20—to perform at Open Mic. Hoolian discussed his personal philosophy regarding the importance of the Open Mic and the greatly appreciated innovations the gallery itself had put into place to foster such a creative environment.
Whether through the recent installation of monitors and a mixing board or through proactive advertisement campaigns, it is clear that the Horn Gallery has made great strides towards accommodating and supporting Kenyon’s prolific art scene.
The practical aspects of the Horn have changed, no doubt for the better, but one constant of the gallery is its fusion of new and established acts.
Hoolian could only reply “Why not?” when asked why someone should come perform, insisting that artists of all varieties gathered at the Horn for the sake of a communal and selfless sharing of creativity.
Paul Ridder ’23 put Hoolian’s philosophy into practice. A stand-up comedian, Ridder saw the Open Mic as a way of continuing the craft he engaged in during high school. He aptly described his oddball comedy sketch and jokes as “draped in irony and absurdity” and he put on a show that garnered reactions ranging from nervous laughter to uproarious praise. “No matter what the act was, the audience was always supportive,” he remarked.
A supportive audience may very well be the most important component of Open Mic night. The audience was not concerned with the quality of each performance, responding emphatically to any performer who displayed passion and genuineness.
Although the voices of poets and singers took the center stage of the night, the sound that constantly served as the backdrop was laughter, applause and overall positivity from a crowd who had come out and given them a night to remember.