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Local talent rocks the mic

Food and Drink gives voice to local talent at weekly open mic

Blondies Food and Drink echoed with chatter on Feb. 28 as guitarist Shaun Juan-Rich Merchant took the stage and lightly strummed his instrument.

The crowd grew quiet as he bursted into his first self-written song. This is Merchant’s second time playing at the open mic night at Blondies Food and Drink, located north of HSU on LK Wood Blvd in Arcata.

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Shaun Juan-Rich Merchant sings at the Blondies Food and Drink open mic night on Thursday, Feb. 28. | Photo by Benji Goodale

Merchant, originally from Missouri, is an avid artist and musician with a deep passion for his craft. He sees his music as a deep expression of the self that is more than just singing combined with a series of well put together chords.

“The true meaning of life is enjoying the experience,” Merchant said. “My music is channeling these experiences that I have had.”

Jimmy Kennedy, an HSU alumni that now lives in Willow Creek, took to the stage later in the night to perform a refreshing style of guitar known as American primitive. He utilizes metal fingerpicks on all of the fingers of his right hand to play this interesting style of acoustic music.

“I’m drawn to this style of music because of the impression that it leaves afterwards,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said that after 10 years of experience with acoustic guitar he is still learning all the time, and enjoys playing music that requires a lot of particular strumming with his right hand. This style of guitar is much different than the popular style for acoustic that instead relies mostly on the left hand.

The open room of Blondies Food and Drink bustled with members of the community as local guitarist Ian Roberts sets up on stage later into the night. The energy in the air was increasingly jolly as more drinks were poured. Roberts secured a tambourine to his right foot with duct tape and made sure his guitar was in tune before bursting into his three song routine.

“I got into guitar playing and music after ‘stealing’ my first guitar from a dog named Oliver,” Roberts said. “It was basically just Oliver’s chew toy in the living room, so my roommate let me have it after I started to play it one day.”

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Ian Roberts performs at the Blondies Food and Drink open mic night on Thursday, Feb. 28. | Photo by Benji Goodale

Roberts said that for him performing music is an experience of catharsis. Performing music allows him to get into the moment enough to open up deep parts of himself and allow for the purging of emotions that have built up inside.

Ben Stoeck, another guitarist that performed earlier in the evening, said that these open mic nights are an opportunity for expression and getting over the fear of performing.

“No matter how excited I feel in the days leading up to the open mic night, there’s always a little voice in my head right before it starts that says ‘I don’t want to go,’” Stoeck said. “It feels great pushing through that feeling and getting up on stage.”

Blondies Food and Drink holds a space for local artists at their open mic nights every Thursday night, starting at 7 p.m. and continuing until closing at 10 p.m.

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