“Bring yer friends + appetite for music + appetite for food” was the initial announcement for ViCE’s first-ever open mic night at BurgerFi on Facebook. While places in the community such as Billy Bob’s have karaoke nights every Saturday, Friday offered a chance for students to exhibit their skills in a more personal environment.
Vice student music show coordinator Niccolo Porcello ’16 explained, “Having an open mic is a great way to have people who don’t normally play shows at Vassar get heard–it’s super tough here to get booked, especially if you don’t know ‘the right people’ or whatever.” The “openness” of the mic created a more friendly atmosphere. Porcello went on, “All you have to do is show up, and you’ll get to play–it’s a way of democratizing music at Vassar, and it’s not the solution but it is perhaps, a good start.”
Porcello further explained that the idea for the open mic stemmed from the realization that the same few bands tended to play at every event. “It’s tough to have enough of a reach to find ‘all’ of the student musicians on campus, and it really relates to how hard it is to practice and play shows at Vassar unless you’re really in the know,” he said. He added, “As part of this year, I’m really trying to promote the idea that it’s possible to play and get experience without being one of the same eight bands that always play.”
The open mic was not exclusively for students. BurgerFi General Manager Gary Plum said, “It’s open to all musicians around town and at Vassar. Anyone can come in.” In addition, Porcello said, hosting an open mic night is a mutually beneficial exchange for Vassar and BurgerFi alike. “BurgerFi gets a boost of business from people bringing their friends out to see them play, and the Vassar community gets free entertainment,” Porcello said.
BurgerFi was not just a conveniently close venue, but a conveniently friendly one as well. Plum explained, “Basically BurgerFi’s supplying the venue and we’re giving them special discounts on a few things.” Students were able to order whatever they wanted at a discounted rate. Plum went on, “We’re not charging them for using the space so there are not many costs incurred.”
Porcello agreed, “The BurgerFi staff and management is incredible, they totally hooked it up and provided a great environment for hanging out and having a show. When we do shows they set up $1 beers and $3 shakes, which is like…10/10.”
Not to mention, as Porcello pointed out, that Vassar students have a tendency to avoid leaving campus at all costs. “I am permanently frustrated by people refusing to get off campus and even across the street,” Porcello mentioned. The hope was that the draw of cheap food and drink and good entertainment would attract more people.
This was not the first Vassar-BurgerFi coordinated event. Plum said, ”We’ve had a Vassar trivia night here, which went very well. We’ve had battle of the bands among student bands and they all got a chance to play.” Because of this existing relationship with Vassar, the open mic night didn’t require much advertising, and was mainly spread around through word of mouth.
Plum went on to say, “We want to get the first one under our belt and see how it goes and we can expand from there.” He believed the collaboration could become a regular event. “I think the event tonight will go very well and Vassar is very organized about planning such events. We’re going to try and make it a regular event, maybe once a month,” Plum said. Porcello agreed that there will hopefully be another event within the semester, but maybe not as frequently as once a month. “It won’t be regular, but there will probably be a few more this semester,” he said.
BurgerFi isn’t the only restaurant experimenting with innovative ideas. With its new renovations, Crafted Kup owner Tanner Townsend hopes to start bringing in talent from the community, as well. Townsend said, “The Crafted Kup has always been a spot for Vassar Students to escape from campus for a change of scenery but as we grew in popularity it became more and more obvious that we desperately needed a larger space.”
He went on, “We have multiple events planned including a weekly Open Mic Night, a Poetry Slam Evening and booking local singer/ songwriters to perform.”
Having a close relationship with the community is important for business. Plum explained, “We are very keen on expanding our Vassar consumer base and we’ve reached out to Vassar and had student groups come in.” He went on to say, “Last week we had a DJ night fundraiser, some DJ’s from New York City come up and the money collected went to charity.”
Townsend explained that the Crafted Kup has its own hopes to expand its relationship with Vassar and the community. “I think the more events and options the Arlington area can offer to the local and Vassar communities the better! We love the fact that we are so close to Vassar and can offer great coffee to its students and faculty,” Townsend said.
He went on, “We are always looking for ways we can bring more to Vassar and incorporate ourselves into the day-to-day lives of its community. We try to participate in as many local events as we can and are happy to offer both catering services as well as donations whenever possible.”
Townsend even outlined a rough plan to move onto campus. “I would love the chance to work with more events on campus and to be able to offer the new space to student groups for meetings and events, and who knows, maybe one day even a small Crafted Kup on campus!”
With the growing amount of exposure between Vassar and the surrounding community, who knows? Maybe Vassar students will stop getting noise complaints.