The term cool can be confusing. To some, being cool means wearing day-glo leggings with yet another generic, nondescript tunic shirt from American Apparel, skipping the "before midnight" line at the Vagabond, and impressing younger siblings with sardonic wit. What the word cool really means, and has always meant, however, is not giving a damn if people think you're cool or not. Unfortunately, most open-mike nights give you a heavy dose of pretentious little snots who erroneously think they're the next Bukowski.
Last night, though, the Hell Yeah Open Mike held at the "S" Sports Bar & Grill was a chance to experience the real deal. Open Mic Direct brought together some of Miami's best undiscovered poets, musicians, and MCs, for a night that proved you don't have to drive to the Beach or Downtown, or wait for Art Basel to get your fix of the good stuff.
Among the performers worth mentioning, poet and spoken word artist Jaren Rivas, who may have served you a drink at Electric Pickle, killed us softly with his words. Rivas does not title his poems so the audience doesn't get any preconceived notions about the work, and jumps into each piece by blasting the audience with his intelligent and witty word play. His work is a refreshing alternative to the rest of most spoken-word, which sounds like angry rap without the synthetic beats.
Local hip-hop band, YMF (Your Mother's Favorite) performed a few songs which you could easily imagine uploading to your MP3 player. YMF had the crowd bobbing their heads and fully on their feet for their last song. We particularly liked the moniker of one of YMF's vocalists: D U Ivan. Very clever.
Further demonstrating the differences between east and west, Hell Yeah's acoustic performers did more than emulate East Side favorites Raffa and Rainer. Manny the Bard took up his guitar and rocked the audience with some sweet, funny, and touching songs, as did Natalia Spicker, who sounded a bit like Natalie Imbruglia without the need for Thorazine.
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It was hard for us to pick a favorite, but there were two performers who we can see signing a TV deal in the near future. The character known as B Chill, performing in a Dwayne Wade uniform with a sideways baseball cap and a pair of extra-large Jackie O sunglasses, literally had people ROFL their asses off. Halfway through the song, he dropped his basketball shorts and then closed it all off with a breakdown of the phrase "mozzarella sticks and sauce."
Just as hilarious but on a totally different tip was Eddie "Gatoe" Xango, who performed his autobiographical songs about withholding sushi from ungrateful bitches in serious singer-songwriter fashion. El Gatoe Xango sings and plays the guitar so well, and so deadpan, that if he weren't singing, "If you knew/The things I do to you/You'd be disgusted/And you'd love it," you would almost forget to bust out laughing.
Of course, being an open-mike night, there were some issues. The sound guy turned up the instruments too high, sometimes drowning out the vocals. The only reason we're mentioning this is because the lyrics were so good that it was upsetting to even miss a line or two during each song, although the sound problem can be explained by the fact that this was the first night at Hell Yeah's new venue. Other than that, Open Mic Direct, has a technologically kick-ass thing going, live-streaming the event through Justin.tv until the launch of the new Open Mic Direct site on September 24.
The next Hell Yeah will be held at the "S" Bar on the last Sunday in September.