Today, forWord members Steph, Susan, and I visited Pizza Pi in Downtown Long Beach for the Break the Silence! Open Mic. We have not been to BTS! since they were at Mirage Coffee House a year or two ago. Coincidentally, we came across Pizza Pi a week ago when we were looking for a place to eat. But that’s a completely different story…
In any case, Steph and I arrived at 7:00 PM. We thought the open mic sign-ups were at 6:30 PM, but it didn’t start until later. We ordered pizza and drinks. Susan arrived later on. They have the set arranged at the front of the restaurant toward the corner of the room. There was chill music blasting with a DJ so it set the mood right.
At around 8:00 PM, the open mic started. We signed up at around 4th or 5th on the list. The acts varied from electric guitarist to spoken word to singing to acoustic guitar playing to reggae to rapping to spitting poetry over instrumentals.
For the first half of the show, it was very difficult to hear the performers due to people talking and the kitchen working. I performed an old piece titled “A Place to Call Home” and Steph performed a brand new piece called “Chalk Days.” At some points though, it was hard to even hear ourselves speak. We still did our best to project our voice, but the noise was sometimes too much. Also the pauses we made in our poetry as well as with every other poet were overtaken by sounds of chit-chat and clink-clank.
Moreover, there is a huge flat-screen TV above the set playing the LA Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks game which I strongly feel makes a huge distraction and takes away from the people stepping up to the mic to speak. It is an open mic after all. This Pizza Pi restaurant needs to change up a few things to cater to One Imagination who runs BTS! because they are holding it down no doubt. The establishment is a different matter.
For the second half of the show, the audience was more respectful and the kitchen was not as noisy because people were no longer ordering food. The performers were all DOPE, but again the restaurant needs to unplug that TV out of respect for the performers. Shining Sons and June(sp?) were amazing on the mic. I am not sure if they remember us, but we were all participants at the APIA Summit Bay ‘09.
Speaking of which, the next APIA Summit is this Summer in the Twin Cities, Minnesota!
- The Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Spoken Word & Poetry Summit is a BI-ANNUAL gathering of Asian Pacific Islander spoken word artists, poets and rappers, founded in 2001. In 2011, they are going to be gathering in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Back to the open mic, one suggestion for One Imagination to improve the venue is to have the host take some time to remind people inside the restaurant to be respectful of the performers because it is an open mic and it takes a lot of courage to step up to a mic and share with absolute strangers your life or what you’ve been going through. I know that One Imagination knows this because I’ve seen them hold it down in the past, but today the host could have made it clear at the start of the open mic to help moderate the noise level.
Other than what I have already mentioned, our experience at BTS! was a positive one overall. Knowledge was told. People were listening. People were sharing. A few people complimented on our poems afterward so it showed that some people were able to listen despite the noise. We complimented other artists there. All love. Respect everywhere. That is the BTS! that I remember. Like any other venue, it is has room for improvement. But BTS! is too dope of a venue to not go back again. Looking back at everything as a whole, I left the venue with silence broken. Open mic every last Thursday of the month at Pizza Pi in Downtown Long Beach from 8 - 11 PM.
By the way, what do you know? Amery, Kasi, Porschia, and Tim (all from SP!!T) were there too doing their thing kickin’ it with us. Tim and Kasi performed too! Representing it for SP!!T. Much love and respect!
- Eddy M. Gana Jr.