MODESTO — Every Sunday at 5:30, musicians, poets and other performing artists begin to pour into the Queen Bean Coffee House for open-mike night. The all-ages show runs from 6 to 9:30 p.m., and admission is free with the purchase of a drink, or $1 otherwise.
Open-mike night provides residents an opportunity to showcase their talent and discover new artists.
Performers are allowed a two-song time slot. Rain Ezra, who recently moved to Modesto from Santa Cruz, said open-mike night benefits local artists such as her in many ways.
"It really helps me overcome my stage fright. ... The atmosphere is just so comfortable."
Ezra's vocal performance, accompanied by her guitar playing and beat-boxing, won her several rounds of applause. "I see singing as my entire life ... and open-mike gives me the opportunity to gain experience in it."
Open-mike night also gives Modesto-area youth a chance to experience the local art scene.
"It's something good for kids to do," said Demi Sanchez, a student at Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School and an open-mikeregular.
"I don't have to worry about my younger friends getting into anything when they're here."
Said Logan Moore, lead singer of The Dream Supreme, an indie band, "There's literally nothing else going on around here."
Brittany Caldwell, a Modesto Junior College student, said she enjoys open-mike night even though she doesn't perform.
"I just love coming. The atmosphere is so warm and inviting and comfortable," she said.
While events continue to sprout up in the Modesto area, many students and creative young people express a need for more art.
"Modesto is full of talent ... but there's no encouragement for being creative. There's no excuse. There's definitely creative people here, just no encouragement," said Moore, a recent transplant from Wichita, Kan.
Abigail Stiles, a 16-year-old student at Keyes Charter, said open mikes and other art events "bring the community closer together as a whole." Abigail, who had never before attended open-mike night, said she came to "experience the art of Modesto."
Many college- and high school-age attendees expressed their love for open-mike night's relaxed, safe environment. Art culture in the Central Valley doesn't always have a good effect on the community, however, said Matthew Monarrez.
"It can be both positive and negative. It depends on who's on the mike."
Monarrez, a graduate of Beyer High School, added that while Modesto has "a lot of undiscovered talent ... there's a lot of negativity in it. I want to see more positivity in the Modesto art scene."
Zachary Senn is a home-schooled junior and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom Program.