Josh Shortman with guitar in handOllie Merriman and Ali Lorenzo with permission for Varsity

Calling Back to early 20th century America, open mic nights were born from the prohibition of alcohol forcing citizens to rely on underground bars for their enjoyment. With that in mind, you might be initially confused to find the underbar of a Cambridge college aiming to replicate such an environment, but if anything the parallels between the two are evident — the night provided students with a deserved escape from the pressures and demands of their academic work, treating them to 90 minutes of glee. 

'I wanted to facilitate and promote the incredible artistic talent of members of the college'

On the night nerves were high, and so too was the general temperature of the room (the stellar turnout at the Gonville & Caius underbar probably produced enough warmth to justify the college’s choice to refrain from turning on the heating for now). The night got off to a great start, with Rhys as the perfect emcee choice, someone with enough charisma to carry conversation and keep spirits high between the different acts getting their gear ready, be it tuning their guitars, or preparing the instrumental over which they would sing. Temperature aside, the setting of the underbar itself was ideal, carrying a great deal of intimacy that allowed for complete focus on the performer whatever the weather.

 A richness of talent was on show, with gorgeous renditions of a Ukrainian folk song and a cover of Frank Sinatra solely backed by a guitar to start off the show, and this level of talent only continued as the night went on. Another highlight of the show was Tirza Sey’s performance — a known and loved figure among the college, the crowd roared and rightfully so before and after a gorgeous solo performance, backed solely by an instrumental. There was a whole lot more where that came from, with Josh Shortman performing an excellent original song about original song parodying conservatism and idealised life in rural Dorset, the origin of which lies with a debate he witnessed at the Cambridge Union. That ability to mesh such a wide range of interests together outside of the demands of a Cambridge degree is what makes these acts so talented and shows and spaces like this so crucial to the city’s live scene. 

Tizra Sey performing at the Open Mic nightOllie Merriman and Ali Lorenzo with permission for Varsity

Jacob, the founder of the Caius Open Mic Society, tells me he “founded the Caius Open Mic Society because I wanted to facilitate and promote the incredible artistic talent of members of the college within a performative environment. The aim of COMS is to put on a regular event which members of the college could be proud of, and somewhere where members of other colleges would want to attend and perform.”

'The last thing they wish is to be highly selective'

If this is about pride, then there was tons of it on show simply through the turnout — the Caians turned out in numbers to support all the performers, as did a string of members of other colleges. The minds behind the society have high hopes for COMS to become the premier place  for live student music and, if its debut night is anything to go by, then it should have no problem doing so. 


Mountain View

‘There’s no Machiavellian edge to it, we just want to have a good time’: Hot Content on rehearsals, supos, and pandas

Wannabe performers  shouldn’t be put off by the high standard set by the show as Jacob reiterates that inclusivity remains at the forefront of the vision put together by the COMS and that the shows are open to “anyone and everyone.” There is such a wide pool of musical niches and talents in Cambridge that unfortunately go under the radar, yet this biweekly event aims to showcase acts that would otherwise be overlooked. Such a welcoming nature and a general ethos of openness, that the showrunners hit home, underlines that the last thing they wish is to be highly selective and cherry-pick acts based on what they bring to the table and if that would be desirable. 

The Cambridge scene is lucky to have events like these that allow for students to come into their own, and I really advise anyone who wishes to participate to follow the COMS’ many social pages (@caiusopenmic on Instagram), and to anyone who wants to see the event, make your way to the Caius underbar at 8:30pm every other Friday.