Much like the aptly titled old Hollywood film about the whirlwind nature of European vacation tours, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”, open mic night transforms the otherwise tranquil setting of downtown La Mesa’s Cosmo’s Coffee Café into a whirlwind of creative energy, making it the place to be for performers and audiences that pack the establishment each Tuesday night.
With few places in East County offering performers of original material a platform for talent, Cosmo’s not only stands out but also abounds with singer-songwriters showcasing their freshly honed compositions. Barista Shannon English expanded on the evolution of the event and how it has grown in popularity for nearly a decade, explaining that Tuesday open mic remains a tradition that performers and audiences have embraced by making it the most well attended night at the neighborhood cafe.
“Some Tuesday nights there are so many performers that they can only do one song, but they’re happy to showcase that,” said English. “Some performers come the distance. The word is out and we have a lot of familiar faces as repeat entertainers as well as audience members. Whether it’s with familiar or new faces, we’re usually pretty packed.”
Kendra Moore, Ann Ely and Kat Tucker are long-time friends choosing Cosmo’s Tuesday night as their girls’ night out. While anticipating the music, Moore is credited for having chosen the venue.
“One of the reasons I chose this place is because they are green and environmentally supportive,” said Moore. “I also want to scope it out and encourage my husband and daughter to come here to actually perform.”
Collectively, the trio agrees that they love the idea of supporting the independently owned and run coffee shop in the local community. They said the sentiment is visibly expressed in the staff’s green colored T-shirts that read, “No Habla Starbucks” in the front and “Cosmo’s” in the back.
Barret Stowers and Carlie Autumn Shultz shared insights into their motivations as singer-songwriters. Shultz said some of her songs, motivation and lyrics come from dreams.
“My goal is music and music is my biggest passion”, Shultz said. “I’ve been coming for almost three years, steadily on Tuesdays. Although I’m mostly acoustic, tonight I’ll be doing electric. I still get nervous every time, but it gets better.”
Stowers said he is thankful for the opportunity that Cosmo’s provides for artist such as himself and his friends. “I have notepad, recorder and, perhaps, I’m trying to bridge the gap between reality and the dream state, as that’s where some of the songs seem to come from,” said Stowers. “You have to put effort into your passion, otherwise it becomes a hobby. And yes, I’m going to pursue what I can. That’s why we’re here.”
Selection of the artists is a random drawing from a jar that each performer enters their name into, with sign-ins starting at 6:30 p.m. and the show beginning at 7:00. Everyone gets their chance to perform at least one song and the “coffee is better than Starbuck’s,” said Stowers.
While there are poets, it is mostly musicians that fuel the night with Ricky Ruis hosting and facilitating it by providing his P.A. system, microphones and soundboard.
“Tuesdays are our biggest, with Saturday nights being more so showcases for one or two artists,” Ruis said before taking the stage, opening with a finger-style acoustic rendition of a Chet Atkins instrumental. The evening culminates with notable standout, original renderings by the young Shultz and Megan Hope–each respectively worthy of mention and accolades from audience and fellow musicians alike.