When was the last time you experienced live music? Those wonderful melodies that hum with our joys, fears, sorrows and hopes; those elusive sounds that intone the emotions words cannot reach. How elated do you feel after experiencing good, live music? Like you could walk on air, like your smile has permanently planted itself on your face… like you are just a bit more alive than you were pre-music. Did you know that the entire third floor of our very own Viking Union building is home to The Underground Coffeehouse, the venue for the yearly Concert Series put on by AS Productions? That’s right folks, here at Western we have an awesome concert series, showcasing some of the best talent today’s music scene has to offer— all for free.

Coty Hogue, co-coordinator of the Underground Coffeehouse, called it, “a free way to hear local and regional music.” Live music- something that is sure to leave you energized and enthused.
“It used to be part of tradition in this culture that sitting around playing music was part of people’s lives,” said Hogue. Before the days of TV, video games, cell phones and instant messenger, playing music together with other people was the main source of entertainment in this country. How did we get from participatory music as an active part of daily life, to a culture where a good deal of the music scene exists in the privacy of one’s personal iPod, an experience that tends to be more about escaping from one’s life and surroundings than engaging with them. Hogue says we’ve “lost touch with music being right there, live, accessible to us. Watching a show at the Coffeehouse is an intimate experience. The performers are right there, and often will encourage the audience to participate.”

For this quarter, Hogue and co-coordinator Evan Williamson have planned an eclectic and exciting line up: Mt. Eerie, deemed by Hogue as the “low-fi mastermind,” will play on Wednesday, October 19. Hailing from Anacortes, Phil Elverum is one of the leading people in today’s indie-pop movement, and local to boot! On October 26, Spoonshine, a band mixing American roots style with world music will be playing; if you like to dance, this is the show to see, as Hogue has dubbed it “definitely danceable.” On November 4, Karl Blau, another regional leader in the indie, lo-fi genre will be playing. On November 10, Harmonica Pocket, a “groovy, folky, worldy” band from Seattle will be coming.

These are just some of the awesome shows the Concert Series will present this quarter. There is a concert every Wednesday and Friday, always for free, always from 8-10 p.m., and always open to the public.

In addition to the Concert Series, the Underground Coffee House hosts a weekly Open Mic Night every Tuesday, a chance for students to have fun, gain exposure, and let their music be heard. The event lasts from 7-10 p.m., with sign-ups starting at 6:30 p.m. The range of musical styles welcome at the Open Mics are limited only by the fact that no one playing can go above 85 decibels, which Hogue said, “keeps us more to a coffee house style.” She emphasized that the Open Mics are a great way to get your music out there and said, “for the Open Mics there are no restrictions. You can get up there and do basically anything you want…except maybe strip!” She also noted that slots fill up quick, and recommended that if you want to play, you get there on time to sign up for the night’s show.

A frequent way students get booked for full length shows is by playing at the Open Mics, which Hogue said, “gets you exposure with the student crowd.” Both Hogue and Williamson, who ultimately have control over who gets booked, are at the Open Mics, so this is also a great way to get familiar with them and express your interest in doing a longer show. Another option is to drop off a demo in the AS Productions office, VU 422, or you can call Hogue and Williamson at 650-3263.

There are not a lot of venues that offer good shows for free, and Hogue urges people to “take advantage of it while you’re here.” Hogue vocalized that the Concert Series and the Open Mics at the Coffeehouse also build community among students. She noted that when she first came to Western, there was a group of regulars at the Open Mic’s who have since started to play shows together. “A lot of students like to come and see what other students are doing,” she said, and cited music as a great way to build and develop community. “[Music] has brought perspective to my life when I needed it. It brings me back to where I need to be- live music especially. Participating brings a really good sense of community, and we lack community nowadays,” she said.

Hogue is keen on the importance of making time for live music in one’s life. “It is a release, even if just for a half hour. Playing music actually releases endorphins, so by playing music, you are stimulating your body to be happy and alive.” Come to the Underground Coffee House and experience one of the many awesome shows booked for this quarter, an Open Mic, or both. I dare you to feel just a little more alive.