One of the best things about the Short North in Columbus is that there is never a shortage of musical events happening. Every Tuesday night, a flock of local musicians make their way to Bossy Grrl’s Pin Up Joint to join Nick and Jenelle from Morning Theft for Open Mic Night.
I felt that with that much raw talent on display, we should make an event of it. Pitching the idea to my editor proved to be the right move. So, consider this the first of a new monthly segment covering the plethora of musical awesomeness taking place on Tuesday nights.
The Morning Theft duo opened the night, as they always do, around 10 p.m. After that, it was on to the local folks. Up first was Darby Smith, opening with a Sam Smith cover, with a voice that was equal parts sweet and soulful, with just the right amount of whisper mixed in.
Next was a newer acoustic duo, Throw Away Monikers. They featured both an acoustic guitar and bass, and blessed our ears with funky grooves and an old-school bluesy feel. They were definitely one of my more favorite acts of the evening, even though they only played two tunes.
The fourth performer of the evening was Andrew Brancefield, who looked and sounded like what would happen if Aaron Gillespie joined Alice in Chains. Intriguing looks aside, he played his acoustic with blazing speed and made for a fun follow up to the previous performers.
Scott Greene followed with help from the amazing Dani Harness. Dani’s beautiful voice meshed perfectly with Scott’s, who could be described as a mix between Michael Jackson and Matt Nathanson. He also flashed talented fret-work, which put everything together perfectly. I feel like he’s the type of artist you might want to keep an eye on in the future.
It was only inevitable that we would finally find a not-so-good musician among all of this excellence. Blair Lehmkuhl came out with the cliché-laden “sunglasses and sandals look” and tried to play slap on his acoustic, to varied results. I actually started zoning out at his awful attempt at a beatbox.
But, my attention came back twofold when Sebastian Olsson came up to perform his patented “emo-disco.” No one captivated the rest of the audience more than Olsson, singing with conviction and dancing like a man with nothing to lose. He was just the right amount of quirky that I was hoping to see at this open mic extravaganza. He finished off with his trademark tune about copulating in public, which fit his bizarre antics to a “T.”
Number eight on the night was Dug of Happy Tooth & Dug, a local rap duo. Dug featured insanely fast rhymes with a sick and tight flow. If you closed your eyes you would find yourself overwhelmed with his ability to free-style and work his beats. You can also tell that he is absolutely crazy, which helps feed his rhymes. The second part of his duo (Happy Tooth) was absent from the evening, but he usually makes an appearance on Tuesday nights.
After midnight passed, we were treated to a truly unique performance from a beat-boxer called Lethal FX. I honestly could not believe that that much sound was coming from one single performer. He was so talented that he made Doug E. Fresh sound like an amateur on the mic, capping-off his scintillating performance with his own special rendition of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” I truly don’t know how to describe the amount of sound that man made with just his voice and a microphone, but I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.
We were all brought back to earth by the folksy style of Brave Weather, showcasing Dani Harness’ amazing voice, this time paired with band-mate Eric Clemens on guitar. They were the most accessible act of the night, and could have easily fit into rotation on CD 102.5 FM.
After that was Benny Peek, who looked like he was straight out of the 1920’s. He poured a lot of passion into his playing and singing, but seemed to be the kind of artist who needed to find the right niche for himself.
Up next was national artist Ricky Steece, who had a scheduled event cancelled on him, leaving him without a place to play for the night. I knew we were in for a treat when he whipped out a gorgeous and shiny-silver Dobro guitar. His voice had a peculiar twang to it that I could only describe as a mesh of bluegrass and new-age alternative folk. He put a cherry on the top of his set by pulling out an accordion for his final number.
Following that, we found a performer crashing himself into flames. Comedian Joel Donahue was joined by Ben Canton (guitar) and Maxwell Sebastian (bass) to back up his odd-ball mix of dirty and improper jokes. I don’t think a single member of the remaining audience laughed and in fact several people ended up leaving during his set.
Fortunately, Jon Hayes of Lackluster took the stage after that, providing the absolutely most beautiful voice you could ever imagine. This dude is ridiculously talented with the six-string guitar and has incredible range, falling somewhere between pre-country Josh Kelley and Jack Johnson. His last song was a duet with (once again, you guessed it) Dani Harness, and for pulling multiple duties she still found a way to blow the collective minds remaining at Bossy Grrl’s Pin Up Joint, even on into the 2 a.m. hour.
With only two performers remaining, we found ourselves treated to the sultry voice of Haley Butters from Absinthe Father. I’ve seen Haley twice at open mic night, and both times she has found a way to bring a tear to my eye. She announced that she had been mugged earlier in the day and almost didn’t come out to the event, but I am truly grateful she did. Her songs were sad, but her emotions were true and vulnerable. We were treated to a tremendous cover of Surfjan Stevens’ “Chicago” at the end of her performance.
For the final act of the evening, we had Evan Jones, who mellowed the rest of the night down. Unfortunately, he struck me as just another “frat boy” who thinks he’s clever because he says “fuck” a lot with an acoustic guitar. That type of performance is unfortunately a staple at open mic nights near campus as well, and he even gave a bizarre rendition of Sublime’s “What I Got,” before putting the night to rest.
Final performer notwithstanding, I found myself surprised at just how many talented people had shown up for the night.
In total, I was treated to sixteen different artists with very different artistic visions and sixteen different sets of thoughts and feelings driving their passions forward. The one thing that united them all was the common cause of making music. Finding beauty, soul, and just enough strange to really enjoy myself for the haul, I’ll be excited to see what Columbus has for us next month!
Performer List –
- Morning Theft
- Darby Smith
- Throw Away Monikers
- Andrew Brancefield
- Scott Greene and Dani Harness
- Blair Lehmkuhl
- Sebastian Olsson – also known as “Emo Disco”
- Dug of Happy Tooth & Dug
- Lethal FX
- Brave Weather
- Benny Peek
- Ricky Steece
- Joel Donahue (with backing musicians)
- Jon Hayes
- Haley Butters
- Evan Jones