Step aside, Horn Gallery. There’s a hot new music venue on campus: the bookstore. In addition to providing students with snacks and school supplies, the bookstore is now offering Tiny Rug Concerts. Don’t worry; unlike your egregiously expensive textbooks, going to see one of these concerts is completely free. At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday nights, students can give solo or group performances to an eager audience.
Tiny Rug was designed by students, for students. Two bookstore employees, Niamh Cahill ’25 and Will Bryant ’25, came up with the idea as part of an ongoing project to revamp the bookstore’s image through social media posts and in-person events. “Our original idea was actually us two putting on puppet shows,” Cahill wrote in an email to the Collegian. However, this concept eventually evolved into Tiny Rug as it exists today, inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.
In the month since its inception, there have been four Tiny Rug Concerts. The first performance was from beloved student band Victor, which consists of five sophomore friends who met at Kenyon last year and bonded through an impromptu cover of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” at a music show at a North Campus Apartment. (Fun fact: They celebrated their one-year band-iversary on Sept. 24.) The group performed several original songs, taking turns singing and transitioning effortlessly between instruments. Victor hasn’t released any music yet, but stay tuned, because they spent October Break in the WKCO recording studio!
For the next concert, Lucca Burgess ’26 brought an indie vibe to the bookstore, singing several original ballads and strumming along on acoustic guitar. He describes his style on his website: “His music pulls from the traditions of indie rock, folk, and grunge, alongside deeply personal, quirkily poetic lyrics meant to feel like you have been invited to read his diary.” Burgess has an impressive musical output; he’s released three albums, an EP and several singles, all of which are available to stream on Spotify.
Aidan Puntes ’26, a singer-songwriter, played several songs off of his new album, in Parting, which is available for streaming on all platforms. He showed off his instrumental versatility as he switched between three different guitars, and his roommate, Finn Alexander ’26, joined him on bass for a song. The song is currently untitled, so Puntes playfully asked the audience for help coming up with a name. The most touching moment of the evening came when Puntes performed a song that his father wrote. He explained that his father doesn’t think the song is very good, but the applause from the crowd when he finished clearly proved otherwise.
Tiny Rug’s most recent denizen was Dawsen Mercer ’26, singing her heart out this past Sunday. She performed five original songs and briefly explained what each one was about before singing. The first two detailed a Kenyon relationship gone sour; Mercer jokingly told the audience that she still sees the person that the songs are about on Middle Path from time to time, so don’t tell. She then whipped out a ukulele for the third song, and the audience laughed when she told them it was because she wrote the song when she was 14. Although she hasn’t released her music on any streaming platforms yet, Mercer concluded her performance by teasing an upcoming EP.
The turnout for Tiny Rug so far has been impressive, with each concert drawing dozens of attendees. In addition to the performers’ friends coming to show support, many students have gone to the bookstore to do some shopping, heard the music and decided to stick around. At the conclusion of each show, friends and fans alike crowd around the Rug to offer praise, congratulations and hugs.
One reason for Tiny Rug’s popularity with Kenyon’s student musicians is that it provides a chill, low-stakes opportunity to perform. Compared to Rosse Hall’s elevated stage or the Horn Gallery’s bright spotlights, the bookstore is a safe haven. Standing atop the cute rug, surrounded by bookshelves, the pressure is off. The calm atmosphere and supportive audience are perfect for even the shyest of performers. Cahill and Bryant are thrilled with the positive reception their idea has received. “For the future, I am really looking forward to expanding these concerts to more groups on campus and seeing what we can do to expand the space,” Cahill wrote.
If you’re interested in doing a Tiny Rug performance of your own, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It’s a great way to put yourself out there and share your music, and the bookstore compensates performers with free ice cream.