Dozens of local students and community members filled the second floor of the Red Rock Coffee Company in downtown Mountain View last Friday, April 28, to see performances of stand-up comedy, speech, and music in the first-ever open mic night organized for the MVHS community by MVHS ASB.
ASB Senior Vice President Molly Harrigan and ASB Visual and Performing Arts Commissioner Josiah Gomes worked with the coffee shop to host the event, with the intent of promoting the arts in the MVHS community.
Spencer Viaggi of LAHS kicked off the evening with a stand-up comedy routine, regaling the audience with the various misadventures involved in a trip to England with his two grandmothers. Viaggi combined a self-deprecating tone with a series of amusing anecdotes to engage his audience. Halfway through his performance, Viaggi feigned discouragement before chastising offerers of sympathy in the audience – “If I wanted sympathy, I would tell you about the rest of the trip, because…” – and continuing with his story. Audience members were entertained by the tale of Viaggi’s stolen passport, enlightened to the glory of a walk-in shower, and advised to carry a lighter when visiting London, just in case an attractive stranger asks for a light.
Matt Asuncion, a student at St. Francis High School performed an original song he described as a “not-so-love song,” entitled “Friendzone.” Dainty ukulele chords complemented his charismatic voice as he sang woefully yet humorously of unrequited love, eliciting laughs from the crowd.
MVHS sophomore Luke Davies prefaced his performance by describing it as “the quiet, boring song” of the night. While it was indeed soft in volume, it was anything but boring. Accompanying his startlingly tender tenor on a cerulean-bodied electric guitar, Davies captivated the crowd at Red Rock with his rendition of Daughter’s “Shallows.” Twice the music rose in waves of low notes and heartfelt lyrics, further drawing in an enraptured audience.
Robert Sanders, a senior at MVHS, performed an original song “Kota,” on vocals and acoustic guitar. His moving ode to a deceased dog frames its subject with light hearted descriptions of the beloved pet, using its example to address very human issues of love and purpose.
After pausing to tune his instrument, Sanders performed a cover of “Naked As We Came,” by Iron & Wine. Rather than playing each chord in full, Sanders deconstructed the chords and rapidly strummed through their individual notes. Juxtaposed with serene vocals and lyrics, this broken-chord approach created a sense of peace rising above doubt.
Robert Sanders and Josiah Gomes perform “Sleep on It,” an original duet the two wrote together after collaborating on numerous covers. Gomes’s uniquely toned voice resounded rich with vibrato, complementing Sanders and his guitar. Gomes and Sanders used a duet structure to convey the story of a couple undergoing difficulties in their relationship, but urging one another to avoid making any rash decisions. The composition of the song centered around a simple phrase that found its way into the title- “why don’t you just sleep on it.”
“Everything was based off of that concept,” Gomes said. “We basically just wrote a story around it.”
Julia Rogers, a senior at MVHS, took the stage with Robert Sanders to perform Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” From Rogers’s first entrance, an “mmm” that filled the room as she stretched the single syllable into a soaring improvised melody, her passion was breathtakingly evident. Sanders rhythmically struck guitar chords to to provide a decently solid foundation, but Rogers’s voice was what truly carried the performance. Her vocal embellishments and resonant tone awed in a showcase of technical proficiency and unshakable confidence.
After separate performances from Robert Sanders, Josiah Gomes, and Julia Rogers, the three came together to perform a mashup of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and “Time After Time.” After hearing each voice individually, the combination of the unique tones of all three over a series of warm guitar chords made for an enchanting performance.
Homestead High School student Ron Barzilay spontaneously rose from the audience, presenting a speech about… almost nothing. Barzilay cautioned the audience against revealing any secrets should they be familiar with his topic. He gave no hints as to what it was, though, only saying that the speech would be in the style of a TED talk. Yet after several minutes of vague generalizations and sweeping statements of resolve—the meaninglessness of which were concealed by Barzilay’s animated stage presence and forceful delivery—his purpose was no clearer. It gradually dawned on the audience that the buildup would lead to nothing. They were not witnessing a speech, but instead a parody of a formulaic, sensational, and essentially hollow speech-giving style. Bewilderment gave way to laughter and applause as Barzilay’s brilliant performance drew to a close.
Rachel Ostrowski and Ellen Shaw, both MVHS sophomores, performed a rendition of “You’re Smiling (But I Don’t Believe You)” by Margaret Glaspy. Ostrowski’s acoustic guitar provided a tranquil backdrop for Shaw’s elegant alto voice, which leapt throughout her range with grace and ease. With lyrics telling the story of a love drained of genuine emotion, the pair’s duet conveyed an air of wistful remorse.
Sebastian Marulanda, an MVHS junior, opened his performance on electric guitar and vocals with a song entitled “Lullaby to Casey” from a forthcoming original album. The song began with a technically impressive melody in the extreme upper range of the instrument. A series of gentle harmonies emerged, including a unique finger technique in which Marulanda used both hands to manipulate the inner notes of a chord. An impassioned singing voice that seemed to carry a searching quality imbued the song with a sense of calm urgency.
Luke Davies returned to the stage for the closing performance, a cover of Leon Bridges’s “River.” This time on acoustic guitar, Davies enthralled once again with a soothing voice complemented by the authentic tone of acoustic accompaniment. Mellow lyrics conveying a narrator’s yearning for absolution in the waters of a metaphorical river brought the night to a peaceful end.
Though he has experience as a performer, Davies still finds himself getting nervous when it comes playing in front of strangers. However, he has learned to adapt to performance anxiety.
“I can turn my nervous energy into more of a focus on ‘what am I doing right, what am I doing wrong,’” Davies said.