The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

81° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Local Musicians shine at Cartel’s Open Mic Night

    Rebecca Noble

    Kat Star does an acoustic cover of Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People during Cartel Coffee Lab’s monthly Open Mic Night at their downtown location on Broadway. Cartel Coffee Lab has been hosting an open mic night every last Wednesday night of the month since January of this year.

    Over the past several years, downtown Tucson has evolved from a depressing embarrassment into a hipster’s paradise. Tucked just south of Tucson’s historic Rialto Theatre you can find one of the many places that helps the city realize its hip potential, Cartel Coffee Lab.

    The Tempe-based coffee shop has two locations in Tucson, with the newest site proudly sitting at 210 E. Broadway Blvd. The downtown Cartel serves up some of the chillest vibes in town, as well as a terrific selection of coffee, tea and beer.

    Cartel has even more to offer though. Besides great coffee, they also provide entertainment by offering an outlet for local musicians to express themselves. On the last Wednesday of each month Cartel hosts its own open mic night, an event that started back in 2015.

    Cartel’s most recent open mic night took place on Wednesday, July 27, and attracted a large crowd with its eclectic mix of diverse talent. Musical styles included everything from indie to soul to acoustic guitar, with one performer even singing an original song about a urinary tract infection.

    Jacob Reyes, a Cartel employee and the night’s emcee, said the event is focused on building community.

    “We do happy hour all night, we keep the machines going and it’s all aimed to give an outlet for the artist and the community,” Reyes said.

    Katelyn Starcher, or Kat Star, kicked off the night and treated the crowd to her covers of hit songs like Sublime’s “Santeria” and Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”.

    “I’ve been singing my whole life but I was always too nervous to do it in front of other people,” Starcher said. “This was a lot of fun. I think the best part was just getting the experience and the publicity and having people find out who you are.”

    RELATED: Get to know Tucson’s historic Rialto Theatre 

    The event started slightly behind schedule, but it sailed on smoothly after the performances began. Each performer played around three or four songs for about 15 minutes.

    Phillip Yancey of the local band Coyote Mustache also performed, capturing the audience with some of his original indie music.

    “I think if you like music and you like coffee and you like the local scene, then this is a really good way to try songs out on people,” Yancey said. “I love Cartel so just playing a few of my songs on nights where I don’t have anything is pretty cool.”

    The coffee shop became more and more crowded as the night went on. About an hour or so into the event, the space became so packed that many audience members had to stand.

    Kyle Gallardo, a new performer, said “[the event] was pretty nerve-racking, but it’s also a cool vibe.

    Gallardo described his musical style as ambient, easy listening, alternative rock; a darker mood overall. After gaining confidence and experience from his performance, Gallardo said he looked forward to coming back.

    Every performer entertained the audience with a unique voice or musical style, but nobody got a better reaction from the crowd than Christian Kemp, a soul music performer with some elements of rock, rhythm and blues. Kemp dazzled each and every listener, capturing their hearts and souls, eliciting major praise from the audience in the process.

    “It’s amazing. I’ve never been to an open mic night this big or with this cool of an atmosphere,” Kemp said. “It was a great experience and I think I’ll definitely be back.”

    Performers continued to show off their musical chops until late into the night—about an hour after the coffee shop typically closes on a Wednesday.

    But of course, all good things must come to an end, and the performances stopped around 11 p.m. with a few members of local indie band ARCHITECTURE concluding the night. Many had left at that point, but a solid group of music fans stayed until the end.

    RELATED: Bad Suns jammed out with a thrilling performance at Club Congress

    Reyes said that for those who are interested in performing at one of Cartel’s open mic nights, you should either text a barista to let them know, or you can sign up the day of the event when the sign up sheet officially gets released.

    It seems that Tucson’s local music scene is thriving, and aspiring musicians should take advantage of this popular event.

    “You get to meet so many awesome people and so many artists that just bring so many different views to the table,” Reyes said.

    So, the moral of the story is you should definitely check out Cartel’s next open mic night to hear some stellar local music. If you can’t swing that, then at least stop in sometime to grab some of Cartel’s awesome coffee and soak up the creative vibes.

    Follow Alec Kuhenle on Twitter

    More to Discover
    Activate Search