Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Beyond the Quad, the ram statue and the castle building, the West Chester community has developed a lively underground music scene. Earlier this month, we took a look at Thursday night open mic at Fenn’s Coffee. All aboard for our next stop on the West Chester live music tour: Boxcar Brew Pub!

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, music lovers, dinner eaters and hopeful performers gathered in Boxcar Brew Pub on E. Market St. in anticipation and celebration of live music. The seats at different dinner tables and the bar welcomed people from all walks of life, and the stage at the foot of the room glowed with a red wash light and offered enough space to host a five-man band. Two frequent open mic supporters, Chadwick and Joe, fiercely played and filmed a game of chess until the show began. Signups began at seven, and the 11 available performance spots were snatched up as quickly as parking spaces around campus and town. West Chester folk are cut-throat. Promptly at 7:30 p.m. the audience hushed in anticipation for the live music.

Brian Cotter, a local high school drama teacher used his craft to open that night. He took the stage dressed in his “Rent” the musical t-shirt and cheetah print guitar strap and began performing original songs from his album “Sad Songs about Bad Decisions.” He performed a song, “Elizabeth Is” that he co-authored with his daughter. The sentiment was refreshing, and the organic sounding guitar playing was reminiscent of Dave Matthews Band, but his intense vocals reminded me of Brian Stella from the Front Bottoms. After his fifteen-minute set, he stayed on stage and served as the MC and introduced each artist, using his theatrical improv skills to make up a backstory for each performer. Cotter raised the bar for songwriting, raw talent and improv storytelling that night.

Following Cotter, another standout musician who made his presence known was Ethan Acey, a tall and thin man dressed in black. Cotter introduced Acey as a friend to the animals after rescuing over two hundred dogs from the SPCA. As noted earlier, Cotter featured his improv stylings to introduce each performer, so although Acey isn’t actually an SPCA hero, as soon as Ethan began playing his music, he spoke for himself. His falsetto voice was sweet and clear, but sounded bluely accompanied by his black hollow electric guitar. He played “Slow Dance” by John Legend and it was every bit as smooth, soulful and electric as it sounded on Legend’s original recording. He thanked the crowd for their attention in his thick and smooth British accent, and as he left the stage, young ladies in the audience mooned over his voice, talent and charm.

Open mic at Boxcar is an upbeat and fast-paced setting that introduces audiences to the arts right in their backyard and fosters a sense of community among performers.

Maureen Farley is a student majoring in communications studies with a minor in theatre. They can be reached at

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