by Kendall Pack
Photo: The crowd at Helicon West, probably listening to words.
Not to boast (that is exactly what I am about to do), but I am a part of several of the more exciting subcultures of society in and around Logan. While “exciting” doesn’t always translate to “amazing,” “sought after,” or “safe,” it also never translates to “boring.”
The predicament of any artist is the lack of opportunity to perform, to spread their name and work to the far corners of Cache Valley (or the world, or whatever). Many of those artists rely on weekly open mic opportunities around town to both show their talents and hone their skills.
I’m going to write about two of these open mics. I know there are more, but my laziness prevents me from caring. So deal with it
Pain And Suffering at the Logan Arthouse
The Logan Arthouse is, on any given Thursday night, home to a bunch of weirdos (don’t worry, this will never get back to them). Open mic night
at the Arthouse has taken a hit in attendance due to changing from Wednesday to Tuesday to Thursday in quick succession. But the handful of people who come every week (some call them “regulars,” others call them “desperate”) have a strong sense of community.
Local legendary comedy icon, Mike “Mike” Grover (his words, not mine) is the king of this community. Mike started out performing stand-up comedy sets at the Arthouse before branching out. Now he opens regularly for touring comedians down in Ogden, West Valley, and Salt Lake City. To us who have rarely left Logan, Mike has arrived. But Mike’s experience allows him to see the wider world outside of open mic. The comedy world is a cold, cruel ladder and each rung is covered in glass. Hyperbole aside, open mic is the first step on a comedian’s journey to the top. It give the performer an opportunity to suffer through some rejection, some bad sets, and eventually to find their voice, their stage presence and a couple spare bucks to pay for gas to get down to Wiseguys comedy club and move up in the world.
Comedy heartthrob Jordan Todd Brown (I promise you, I would not write these words without a good amount of coercion) retired from the stand-up comedy scene to pursue a lucrative career in improv comedy in sunny Logan, Utah (he’ll never escape this town). But, prior to improv, Jordan performed stand-up throughout high school and then at open mic at the Arthouse. His association with other comedians and the owners at the Arthouse gave him the idea to start up an improv troupe.
And the rest is history. History that I am too lazy to write.
Jonathan and James Ribera, owners of the Arthouse, started open mic nights in the hopes that they could gather the comedians, the musicians, and the poets from around the valley into one place. It is, after all, an arthouse. Open mic has yielded many opportunities for those who perform regularly. Some musicians who started on Thursday nights are now playing shows around the valley, some of the poets are reading at competitions, and some of the comedians are Mike Grover.
Open mic is every Thursday at the Arthouse at 7 p.m.
Helicon (Helicopter Convention, probably) West
Last week I attended Helicon West, a bi-monthly reading of poetry and prose. From Helicon West’s site, I stole the following snippet:
“Star Coulbrooke, poetry writing instructor for the Utah State University Department of English, had dreamed for years of starting an open reading series, where students and community members could read their writing to an appreciative audience.”
Rather than bore you with some drawn out history, I’ll just say that Coulbrooke’s dream came true. Of course, she had to actually work for it. But that’s kind of what you sign up for when you want to create something of any substance.
Helicon West brings in featured readers, professionals in the writing community, to read their work. This is followed by an opportunity for amateurs (you, me, your neighbor) to read their own work.
The work read by students and you, me and your neighbor is not always the most polished writing. But here’s the amazing thing about a good open mic: It’s a judgment-free zone. People freely give constructive feedback and compliments (as freely as hugs or time-share opportunities). The whole feeling of the place is one of acceptance, which is understandable, coming from a group of people who just want to be part of a community.
Much of the work that is published in USU’s literary magazine, “Scribendi,” begins life at Helicon West as a rough draft. Kuniko Poole, a junior majoring in creative writing, has been published in the most recent issue of “Scribendi.” She has used the open readings at Helicon West to work on her projects. “It was really terrifying … but everyone else is reading pretty personal stuff,” she says. Given, you may not be looking to tell the world about your life and the struggles therein (heartbreak, illness, broken shoelace), but this just goes back to what I said before about Helicon West being a judgment-free zone. Everyone gets a chance to tell their story without fear of ostracism.
Helicon West will be at Citrus and Sage on April 26th at 7:00 p.m. and will feature the winners from this year’s “Scribendi.”
Wrap It Up
Star Coulbrooke stopped dreaming and started doing. Star Coulbrooke is an American hero. You can do the same.
Open mic is accepting of anyone, because the goal of anyone performing there is to have their work accepted. People there want you to succeed.