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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

B.O.M.S. slams into session!

Published: October 2, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

The first thing you notice when attending an open mic session is the vibe.

You don’t feel the vibe at an open mic. More like, you feed it. You and every attendee, performer, observer and passer-by, are all distinct parts of the energy of a session like flames are part of a throbbing fire. With every applause, the energy pulses. With every howl or hum of approval, the vibe in the air sweeps past and takes you. You feel an untrembling silence keep the air still until it shakes from a unanimous exhalation.

This is what I have come to expect, and mentally prepare myself for, every other Tuesday night at the castle commons. This is Brandeis’ own open mic series, B.O.M.S.

I have attended and reviewed B.O.M.S. a few times in the past and every time I am stunned by the amount of talent residing among Brandeis students. It takes the presence of a single mic to strip students of their composure and let loose on an open stage. That shy kid that you never spoke to in class reveals himself as a skilled musician. That quirky girl you always copy chem labs off of transforms into a master slam poet. And the audience just sits there, wide-eyed, absorbing the absurd amount of newly-discovered talent as it radiates from what moments prior were just “some random Brandeis kids.”

But they’re not just some random Brandeis kids. It won’t take you long to realize that the B.O.M.S. attendees are some random Brandeis kids, but with serious chops—be they musical chops, poetic chops, or otherwise.

Slam is not a formal occasion. There is no holding of applause or “respectful” silence. In fact, if the audience during a slam is dead silent you may very well suspect that something is wrong. An artist’s performance thrives off of feedback—snaps, howls, whistles, and “hell yeah’s” included. The subject matter may range from sex to bombs to sexbombs, and all things in between. Occasionally something as (virtually) unshocking as a simple love for one’s mother is reveled with poetic verve. But leave it to a Slam poet to even throw in a few Oedipal references to the mix, just to keep things interesting.

You can never pick out a slam poet in the room just by looking at one. The performers range in their styles and influences as much as they range in appearance—which is to say, a lot. Tuesday’s feature performer, California native and Emerson student, George Watsky, wouldn’t strike you as particularly standout-ish in appearance. He could easily pull off the “average college kid” look or, to type-cast a bit, maybe even “average college geek”—but I say that without the slightest disparagement and with utmost respect. If Watsky epitomizes geek, we should all strive to be geeks when we grow up. Or else just skip the hierarchy and strive to be George Watsky when we grow up.

Watsky has a skinny frame and boyish face but his voice packs a serious punch. His phrases rise and fall with crescendos and at times it’s hard to mentally keep up with his staggering speech. It may be the slight lisp that contributes to this effect, but the speed of Watsky’s slam is very rapid, while every line is expertly crafted. That, and his creative use of stage “props”—(placing the mic to various body parts to depict how he loves with his body), telling hand gestures, and choice sound effects to boot, make for a very entertaining and enlightening slamsperience. It won’t take long for you to realize that this guy is seriously gifted with words, and it won’t take much longer for you to realize that he’s a comedian, too—gathering nearly as much laughter as he does applause. By the end of the night, snaps and claps were erupting all around.

B.O.M.S. nights are always an experience, and always unforgettable. Whether from a featured artist or from one of Brandeis’ own, these individual contributions to the communal vibe are what make the scene so special, and without doubt, always enjoyable.