The lights are all off, as usual, with the exception of the red and blue bulbs with their waves mingling to cast a loud purple hue across the DJ booth. The garage door, which remains drawn closed only about 60% of the time here at the KSDT radio station, is pulled completely up and leaves a gaping view of the innards of the DJ booth, where open mic acts trickle in one after another.
Electric open mic nights like this one are usually occupied by rock band after rock band, interspersed by the occasional metal, folk, or even poetry act. During my first at a KSDT open mic night, I was running the soundboard and watching from the sidelines. Now, I stick around for the crowd, for the fleeting connections and the unabashed dancing as each performance rides the backline to the fullest.
Act one: heads nod along politely. Act two: the cheering automatically increases as the room’s capacity is approached. Act five: mild confusion but support regardless? Act seven: it’s not a KSDT event without someone starting a mosh pit. Complete with drum kits, banjos, self-written operas, and pogo sticks, open mic nights are for the fearless. We scream for more, more, more– we are always searching for more.
Act eleven: bodies lean against the walls to feel sound, not minding when chalk drawing residue leaves its mark on denim jackets.
I believe in the casually brave– those who decide to step up to share at open mic nights, the folks who carry instruments across campus (and play them as they walk), the friends who pioneer odd combinations of pendulums and microphones, guitars and pogo sticks, and the found family of students that work so hard to make the station welcoming. I believe in every single individual that has walked through the front door of the radio station at some point in their lives because their command over their possible hesitation helped me feel at home. I learned to discard nerves and tame raging anxieties, share my own music at a few open mics and take ownership of the chalk drawings I added to our wall. I no longer dread talking on the air during my showtime (or anytime), and I’ve found that it is indeed possible (and honestly, a ton of fun) to carve out a place for myself here and find ways to give back to the community.
I believe in college radio and the space it offers to those of us who may start out afraid. Bravery is much closer than I thought.