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Acousticafe features student musicians

Tori Roeck | Thursday, April 12, 2012

On Thursday nights at 10 p.m., Acousticafe transforms the basement of LaFortune Student Center from a dreary study space to a hip venue for live music.

Junior Matthew Almario, the Student Union Board (SUB) Acousticafe programmer, said the weekly event showcases students’ performance skills in an informal, low-key atmosphere.

“Aside from bigger concerts at Legends, there are not really too many places where students can perform,” Almario said. “So it’s a way for musicians here on campus to get their music out there and to create a nice environment on Thursday nights.”

Each week, students sign up for six 15-minute slots, and each act performs three to four songs, Almario said.

Although the most popular format for performers is a singer accompanied by acoustic guitar, Almario said Acousticafe attracts a wide variety of artists.

“There are people who do four or five-piece sets,” he said. “This Thursday, there’s going to be a person doing a guitar, a box-drum and a trombone in one act. Another act is going to be a person on a trumpet [with] violin and guitar. Sometimes, we get a lot of different instruments.”

Best of Acousticafe takes place at Reckers the last Thursday of every month. Acts are chosen by students’ votes in an online poll available on the SUB website and Facebook page, a change Almario said started this year.

“Before, it was a subjective thing. [SUB] would just pick the four or five performers people thought were the best,” he said. “But this is a way for students to provide their input.”

Reckers is also a new venue for Best of Acousticafe, which used to take place in LaFortune basement before this year, Almario said.

“Reckers has given us a nice stage, so we’ve had a much larger turnout,” he said.

Almario said at its peak, Acousticafe attracts about 75 attendees, and he encourages students to come support their peers.

“It’s a good time to see people you know in your classes and say, ‘Oh wow, this kid’s got a voice,'” he said.

Sophomore Erin Hanratty said she began performing at Acousticafe last spring at her resident assistant’s [RA] suggestion.

“I originally heard about it from my RA last year, because one of her friends used to do it,” Hanratty said. “I had my guitar here and I would play guitar with my friends and sing for them … and my RA said, ‘You would like doing Acousticafe.'”

Hanratty said she performed at open mic nights in high school and wanted to continue in college.

“In high school, I played random stuff at my school, and a little bit of open mic stuff where I lived, so when I came to college, I was definitely interested in doing stuff like that because I really liked performing for people,” she said.

Hanratty said she sings and plays guitar at Acousticafe, performing both covers and original songs.

“I write my own songs, so sometimes I do a couple originals and then mix in a few covers too, like Taylor Swift or Matt Nathanson,” she said.

Acousticafe is a good, relaxed environment for student musicians to display their talents, Hanratty said.

“It’s cool to be able to have a place to perform and have it be really low-pressure and for the fun of it,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be a big organized choir or anything you need to try out for. If people want to share their music, they have a place to do it.”