Community riffs and beats rocked the stage and local attendees in the Memorial Union Building’s Entertainment Center as the Campus Activities Board (CAB) presented their monthly fall Grind open mic night on Friday, Nov. 2. In a change of pace, the Grind, usually allowing for any and all musical categories and styles, chose to dedicate the night’s mood and theme to one specific genre, mainly classic blues music.

In keeping with the blues theme, the night’s raffle featured two harmonicas up for grabs, with attendees encouraged to use raffle tickets given to them at the start of the night and enter for a chance to win.

Prior to the start of the performances, pop singer and songwriter Brian Walker educated the crowd with a brief history of the blues, highlighting its roots in African-American history as a means of self-expression for slaves on Southern plantations in the 19th century, derived from African spirituals and chants made into ceremonial song for a variety of purposes. Walker also touched upon the blues’ significance in
communities like New Orleans, where blues and jazz mingled as it made its way north up the Mississippi into cities like Chicago, where it further evolved and spread from there over the course of the 20th century.

Over the course of the night, however, the blues theme did not stop current pop and experimental tracks from flooding the Entertainment Center. Walker kicked things off with acoustic renditions of songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Justin Bieber’s
“Love Yourself.” Following him were acts ranging from hard rock riffs to slam poetry sessions featuring themes of empowerment and realizing one’s true potential.
One audience standout was junior communications major Chris Gagliolo, who received enthusiastic applause and praise from attendees for a style of experimental pop hip-hop-inspired tracks he himself described as music that has been “inside of me just waiting
to get out.”

“ …this is really cool because this is the first time that I ever got to see my songs come to life,” Gagliolo, who wrote and produced his own tracks, said. “Usually I play just piano, and I don’t have all the production, I don’t have, like, all the crazy-like drums and all that stuff, so this was really fun for me to finally see myself [and my music] come to life like the way I always envisioned them.”

Jemina Shepherd, a senior economics major, accompanied Gagliolo at the Grind on Friday, as she herself performed a collection of original poems, including one she called “Untitled” – revolving around how the author and others navigate the obstacles of life with metaphors of boulders and compasses. Shepherd wrote as she was sitting in the
audience during the show.

“This [event] was really the first place I ever performed, and it was through Chris’ encouragement and the encour agement of everyone in the audience,” Shepherd said after the show of what inspired her to present her work pub licly. “So, we love coming back to the Grind, even if we haven’t been here in a couple of months, to be able to feed off of that energy and really be able to help what was already art that we loved come to life for others.”

Walker, who gigs across New England at various establishments and works with music full-time, was part of the UNH class of 2015 with a degree in business administration and marketing and regularly performed at the Grind as a student.

Walker, who first performed at the Grind in 2011 and evolved from just playing piano to taking on singing roles over the course of his college career, called his hosting gig “very nostalgic” and his chance to reunited with his Granite State roots “exciting.”

“It was actually when I came to the University of New Hampshire, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I ma jored in acting, I had a business major, and I did sports my whole life,” Walker told The New Hampshire. “But it was at this school that I discovered my love for music, and that it was the one thing I wanted to pursue more anything else…I just knew that I wanted to find whatever my passion was, and then put everything I had into that one thing. And for me, that was music.”

Benjamin Strawbridge is a News Editor and Official Senate Correspondent for The New Hampshire student newspaper based at the University of New Hampshire, where he reports on the university's Student Senate and other breaking news; he joined TNH in Sept. 2017 as a contributor.
Strawbridge currently attends UNH as a English/Journalism major and part of the UNH Class of 2020.