Westmont’s literary magazine The Phoenix kicked off its 2018-2019 season with an open mic event at the observatory. Despite a no-microphone restriction, malfunctioning lights, and competition from an all-campus lecture held the same night, the event was a massive success, and there were more audience members than chairs. The night began at 7:00 pm on September 20 with an acoustic performance from Upside Down Kingdom. Led by Kieran Clark and Olivia Essen, the group first assembled as an informal worship team two years ago. Upside Down Kingdom performed five original worship songs, and even invited the audience to sing along. The band has recorded a studio album that will become available soon. The first two singles from the album are currently available on Spotify.
The open mic portion of the event began after a brief break when guests and performers enjoyed refreshments. Most performers read original poetry, with a couple musical performances interspersed throughout the lineup. Matthew Lee shared a moving piece about multiracial identity, and Alena Nemitz read a stellar poem about femininity. Later, Olivia Stowell performed her spiritual poem “Sestina for Eurydice,” and Gabe Grabowski recited “The Sacred Place,” a short piece he wrote about his experiences in the mountains in the Santa Barbara area. The two musical acts were both covers: Miah Williams and Dylan Lourenco performed a version of “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae, and Hannah Martin and Brenna Ritchey played “River” by Leon Bridges. Both songs excellently showcased their respective singers’ vocal prowess.
Perhaps the most unique performance came from Kenny Galindo: two volunteers held hand-made scale models of the planets as Galindo, an astrophysics enthusiast, recited lyrics from a series of songs he wrote about our solar system’s planets. “I’d have liked to perform them at Westmont sometime,” said Galindo, “but there’s no piano here tonight.” Those who stuck around to the evening’s conclusion were lucky enough to witness Drake Bogataj’s act. Bogataj, who arrived late, performed a two minute yo-yo freestyle set to music. Although he only began the hobby a year and a half ago, he exhibited incredible prowess during his set.
Performers and audience members alike viewed the event as a major success. “I felt really positively about it,” said Phoenix editor-in-chief Sam Gee. “The lack of the microphone could have been a disaster, but I think that it actually enhanced the experience by making the event more intimate and creating a more welcoming atmosphere where people felt safe to share their work.”
What’s next for the Phoenix? The literary magazine will be published toward the end of the spring semester, comprised entirely of Westmont student submissions. In addition to the print publication of visual art and poetry, this year’s Phoenix will also include a digital element—a compilation album of students’ musical compositions and performances, available on Spotify. Performers from the open mic will hopefully share their work through one of these mediums in the spring. Later in the year, writers, visual artists, and musicians who want to contribute to the Phoenix will be able to submit their work to the magazine’s editors for consideration.