The “townies,” or citizens of West Chester, are like that crazy uncle at family parties: they are always sharing stories, unexpected experiences and secret talents. Throughout our crooked alleyways, we’re developing a music and storytelling scene to be proud of. Thursday night open mic at Fenn’s Coffee is just a quick glimpse into the culture developing in our piece of the world.
Fenn’s Coffee is a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop on Church Street with eclectic art hanging on the teal walls and a hodge-podge crowd to match. At 6:30 p.m. the sign-ups start, and the magic begins at 7 p.m. The diversity of talent reflects the crowd in attendance; I’ve heard everything at Fenn’s from stand-up comedy to original raps to indie-folk banjo covers. A few particular stars stood out among the rest this past Thursday, Sept. 21.
Zach Richmond is a West Chester resident who performed both original and cover songs. With his baggy black T-shirt and long free-flowing hair he portrayed his carefree DIY style accompanied by his electric guitar. He played “Weed and Wine,” a meditative original love letter, and covered “At Last,” made famous by Etta James. Richmond’s cover was drastically different from the classically embraced passionate ballad your grandmother sings along to. The electric guitar created a hypnotic, rainy morning feeling with an up-tempo beat. His performance was captivating; the audience’s complete silence said everything. His music is available on Spotify.
Various other artists performed that night, including WCU student Joey Miller. He played an original song, “Snow is Cast Upon a Hidden Stage” telling the story of a night where the whole world’s soundtrack is muted by a thick, pure blanket of snow, until a dog’s howl pierces the veil of sleepiness.
The night concluded with a set by Ranger Arnold and his girlfriend, Ashley. They played original songs they wrote together on their cross-country road trip. They incorporated various non-conventional instruments like a Tibetan singing bowl and a set of Energy Chimes. Arnold played guitar and harmonica with such fervor that I was waiting for the strings to break and the blood vessels in his head to pop. They are a cohesive couple, and their connection is apparent in their music.
Fenn’s Coffee is a staple in our community because it helps artists connect, collaborate and celebrate live performance. Elias Young, a local resident and a frequent Fenn’s performer, said that for him, “Fenn’s is a community of understanding and artistic expression.”
Although the room is small, there’s always room for fresh newcomer acts, and this supportive audience serves as a set of fresh eyes for performers looking to build confidence on stage.
Maureen Farley is a student with a major in communications studies and a minor in theatre. She can be reached at MF845745@wcupa.edu.