The stage was set — rather literally — in front of the HUB plaza tables for students to show their talents on Monday, May 20 at “Casa de Cafe” night, hosted by the Highlander Union. To the side of the stage, a Starbucks booth was giving out free coffee and snacks to students attending the event in accordance with the “Cafe” in “Casa de Cafe,” as a lineup of student artists both solo and in groups were ready to sing the night away.
The night kicked off around 6 p.m. as student band Blueseason took the stage, with music major and guitarist Marwan, biology major and guitarist Norbu and philosophy major and singer Alex. Marwan said that their band is actually made up of seven people but that Casa de Cafe was a “one-off thing” for them, something decided out of spontaneity, that they all wish to make careers in music. The night air was filled with the folksy sound of acoustic guitar strums and picks, now and then accompanied by Alex’s singing and backup from the other band members. The sound was not unlike that of campfire songs, especially when they played “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a rather barebones song of guitar, singing and drumming.
Being a “one-off thing” for Blueseason, the music they played at Casa de Cafe was light compared to their normal content. Alex is also a pianist, bassist, guitarist and drummer, and Noah, another band member, is the band’s “beloved metalhead.” But when only the un-amped six strings and singers remained, the end result was mellow tunes apt for winding down to at a day’s end.
Next up on stage was Luis Ortiz, a third-year transfer student and sociology major, bringing with him only a guitar and his voice. He initially started out with the same folksy tone of the previous performance, but changed things up as he started singing oldies, including “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis Presley and “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Originals, centrally acoustic and vocal songs popular in the ‘60s.
Ortiz said that music he wants to play aims at “taking it back a notch,” as he enjoys slower music and finds that the lyrics of a song carry more weight than the music itself. He took his first guitar class in seventh grade and now, inspired by rhythm and blues, oldies, Bruno Major and his own emotions, Ortiz has come to a revelation: “I’ve been thinking about it lately, but now I want to compose my own original music, and I’m finally in the place to start doing it,” Ortiz reflected.
At around 7:30 p.m. the night took a different turn from the calm nature it started out with as Sergio Sanchez Alcantara took the stage. Armed with amp, electric guitar and instrumental accompaniment from his phone, Alcantara turned the night’s tone from relaxed to head-thrashing metal, picking frets left and right as the strings wailed power chords out of the speakers. Alcantara describes the music he plays as a means of self-expression and stress relief, considering it his only escape from life’s difficulties. He especially admires bands that “can create an atmosphere and say things without saying them.”
After Alcantara stepped down Alex Chen came up, putting another twist on the night — one of poetry. Chen presented to the crowd an assortment of his own works, each of which he said was meant to “provide commentary on conspiracy and forced beliefs. My poems originally came out of annoyance with beliefs of flat-earthers and the denial of climate change. I took those ideas and exaggerated them to the point of absurdity. I also threw lizards in there for some reason,” Chen joked.
The night finished out with karaoke sessions from the remaining performers, because Lucas Lopez never showed up for his scheduled act, a group of students from the crowd decided to fill in for him, singing together a soulful Mexican tune. The impromptu performers Eric Ramirez, Iris Chaves and CHASS Senator Angel Cuevas had actually just met in the crowd that night and collectively decided “why not” when considering to go on stage.
As the end of the night neared Faith Meyer was up next, and sang a soulful and tender rendition of Lauren Daigle’s hit song “I Believe.” The night closed out as Andrew Salas sang just as spirited a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” The event ended at 9 p.m., with almost 200 students having come through to pick up coffee and watch the performances.