By Deven Bourquin – For the Cal Times
The main lights are shut off as the stage lights take up setting the ambiance of the room. Some people are already seated and mingling while others are sauntering in. A few of them sign their name on a white board by the entrance. There are refreshments provided and the crowd is enjoying itself, anticipating what is to come. This scene occurs every Thursday in Natali Student Center on the second floor in the Commuter Center from nine o’clock in the evening to midnight.
The Underground Café provides students with a chance to relax from the labors of the week with music. A typical night runs with a few performances, courtesy of student musicians, from nine to ten. At ten o’clock a special guest will perform until eleven, and then eleven to midnight is followed by more student performances. One may hear anything from beat boxing or karaoke to acoustic performances with guitars or pianos. Covers by bands, such as Coldplay, The Beatles, Paramore, and many others are common. However, the truly special moments of the Underground Café occur when students perform their own pieces. The friendly and supportive atmosphere of the event provides the perfect place for students to showcase their musicianship.
Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Johns and Charles Heiser, both of whom were newcomers to the scene. Both of these talented young men performed original songs. Patrick Johns’ “Get set, ready, go” was a well composed selection that had my head nodding to the beat the entire time. Johns started playing the playing the guitar at the age of thirteen and cited Eric Clapton as his inspiration and role model. When asked what his favorite part about the Underground was he replied, “The release and break from the week. It lets me calm myself down.”
Charles Heiser, a freshman, also began playing the guitar around thirteen. His performance at the Underground Café encompassed covers of The Beatles and All Time Low. However, His third and final selection was an original composition for the acoustic guitar titled “Faking it”, a song about the trivialities of teenage love. The song kept my foot tapping and the chorus was upbeat and catchy. Heiser’s favorite part about the Underground Café is that it maintains a “nice club like atmosphere.”
Both of these young gentlemen delivered solid performances and plan to perform again in the future. Their debut performances were well done and their next are sure to be promising.
On Jan. 26, goers to the Underground Café definitely found themselves a treat when Todd Carey, that night’s special guest, stole the spotlight from ten o’clock to eleven. Todd Carey, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, began playing the guitar in the sixth grade, and his long time spent with the instrument definitely showed in his performance. Every once in a while a very technical guitar part was thrown into the song to remind his audience that he is your average musician. He has toured with other popular artists, such as Jason Mraz, John Mayer, and Marc Broussard to name a few. Furthermore, his songs have been featured on TV shows. Some examples are “The Real World” and “Exiled.” Todd Carey stated that some of his role models are The Beatles, Paul McCartney, as well as his parents.
Last week was Carey’s fifth return to California University totaling up to six performances at the university. Todd Carey began his performance with “Light her up.” His set list totaled twelve songs. With his fun, flirty and suave performance style, this humble musician delivered dynamic and solid vocals. Often the crowd was involved with clapping rhythm sections as Carey enticed his listeners with his music. Just by watching him perform one can tell the passion that he has for what he does.
Not only did Carey play the guitar, but he also layered his guitar playing live, which, in turn, added a whole other level of depth to his performance. The amazing thing about Carey is that one can see how hard he works to deliver his power house performances, while completing the job flawlessly. His vocals proved that they can stand alone during his a cappella selections. Those that missed this fulfilling performance should definitely visit his website at www.toddcareymusic.com. Todd Carey may also be found on facebook, myspace, and twitter.
“ Meeting people is the best part about touring,” responded Carey when interviewed. “ I particularly like coming to Cal U.” In fact, the latter was a part he frequently reiterated throughout the night. At one point he said, “ There’s great spirit and vibe here” about the Underground Café and it’s members. Anyone that has attended the function would certainly agree.
All in all, the Underground Café is certainly the place to be on a Thursday night because one will find free refreshments and great music. In the words of performer Patrick Johns, “ Come to the Underground.”