‘Caffeine’ Open-Mic Energizes Campus through Coffee and Creativity

On Saturday, Feb. 5, more than a dozen Colgate students braved the polar vortex to attend “Caffeine,” an open-mic and game night in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) fireplace room. The moment students entered the room, they were met with what appeared to be an enormous slumber party. Strewn throughout the room were a half dozen oversized bean bag chairs, pillows galore and more than enough soft, fleece blankets to go around.

Like any good slumber party, the tables in the room were also fully stocked with all kinds of sweet and savory snacks. From steamy mac n’ cheese to Pirate’s Booty, Oreos to Chips Ahoy and hot cocoa to hot coffee: The “Caffeine” open-mic had it all. Even more tables were piled high with crafting supplies, including Colgate-themed coloring sheets, miniature Bob Ross painting kits complete with 2×4 inch canvases and paper cups for a cup-decorating contest.

As students settled into their beanbags and cuddled up beneath blankets, musician Jeff LeBlanc took to the microphone set up at the front of the room and performed for the intimate audience a sampling of his most popular songs as well as several covers of other artists. In particular, LeBlanc’s latest single, “When You Need Me,” had students swaying on their beanbags and elicited a wave of applause and several whoops from the audience.

Following LeBlanc’s performance, the mic was left open for any students interested in sharing their own creative works with the audience. After sitting vacant for only a moment, first-year Eloise Ruth Nelson was the first to get behind the mic and perform two pieces of original poetry entitled “Cancer” and “I Call My Love.” Each poem was received with snapping and clapping all around, leaving Nelson beaming on the makeshift stage.

“The ‘Caffeine’ open mic felt like a truly safe space,” Nelson reflected after the event. “There was no way that the group of people coloring and snuggling on bean bags were going to be a tough crowd. Sharing your story is always scary, but at ‘Caffeine,’ the calm atmosphere allowed me to be vulnerable.”

After Nelson’s recitation, it was as if the creative floodgates had opened. Several more students, including first-year Diya Mehta and sophomores Max Gardinier and Josh Docking, took to the stage to recite their own original works of poetry or, in Docking’s case, to perform the classic cup song popularized in the 2012 film “Pitch Perfect.”

“You inspired me to do this,” Mehta told Nelson as she took her place behind the microphone. Taking a deep breath, Mehta then performed an original, untitled poem exploring the little ways love enters our daily lives.

“After reading my poem, I felt like I had just gotten off a roller coaster. It was a surge of emotions because I had never read anything I’ve written in front of other people, but the support from everyone made me feel amazing and definitely uplifted me,” said Mehta.

As performances dwindled and hot cocoas cooled, event coordinator and sophomore Emma Attar thanked all those who had participated in the open-mic and announced the winners of the paper cup decorating contest. Winning cups featured intricate floral designs in the Colgate colors, detailed drawings of “Adventure Time” and an elaborate caricature entitled “President Brain Cupsey of Cupgate University.” 

After the last student had performed, after all the beanbags had been vacated, and the last miniature painting had dried, Attar reflected on the success of the night of events. 

“The goal was to give students a creative outlet and a place to relax and get to know each other outside of their typical routine,” Attar said. “Overall, we had hoped that people would just relax and enjoy themselves, and I would say we did that.”

The event, sponsored by the Student Activities Association (SAA), was planned as a part of the Winterfest weekend, taking place alongside events such as sledding on the hill, moonlight snowshoeing and iceless ice skating on a hard plastic platform in Huntington Gymnasium. To stay up to date on upcoming SAA events like this one, make sure to follow SAA on Instagram @saa.colgate.