By Cassie Osvatics

The Board and Brew recently announced the return of their monthly open mics, each one featuring a different act. Last month, attendees got to hear some funk from College Park band Humbalaya. Last night’s open mic, presented by Flying Dog, kept it rolling with Box Era, all recent graduates from this university and friends of Humbalaya.

What’s clear from the open mics is the desire for community involvement. “The goal of it is to get a lot more interaction from the community around us … our business is owned and operated by UMD graduates,” Ford Duvall, a senior English major at this university and an employee at The Board and Brew, said. “Everybody but one person in our management went to UMD … so we want to give back to the community and give a space for people to perform and hang out but also be able to feature up and coming artists.”

The first hour open mic began with three acoustic performances, including one from Marshall Reed, a student at this university. The singer and musician performed an original song and three covers including Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” The Airborne Toxic Event’s “Sometime Around Midnight” and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Box Era went on after the first hour of the open mic, bringing upbeat jams and a whole lot of fun. Lead singer and keyboard player Randy Hayek described the band’s sound as a combination of  electro, jam, pop and funk. “I would say we hold true to those four terms but we go a lot of places,” Hayek said. “I mean every band says that, every band talks about how they’re influenced by a whole bunch of things and most people can hear that one clear sound … we’ve even shortened it to jam-pop … we’re all big jam band fans but we didn’t want to be a jam band so we tried to make like jammy influenced pop songs.”

The band formed about two years ago after living in the same housing off campus and having numerous jam sessions. “Box Era comes from the Knox boxes…I and a couple others lived there our junior year and it was a really cool artistic community that all lived in those Knox boxes and so we’d just all get together and jam,” Hayek said. “We were all going to live together in the Knox boxes as a band but they tore them all down … we hadn’t had a band name yet so we called it Box Era and moved over to Metzerott.”

Box Era will be releasing their first EP May 26 at a release party at the Velvet Lounge in D.C. with tickets available at the door for $8. On the EP, Hayek said, “it’s going to be like 15 minutes of music, three songs plus an interlude … there’s not a lot of songs on it so it’s a pretty fluid project.”

It’s pretty evident, though, that Board and Brew open mics are here to stay. “We’re also looking to interact with more student groups on campus to do similar events,” Duvall said. “We talked to Kahwa wa Kutub and had an open mic promoting our Syrian menu last week, which was a huge success and moving forward we want to work with Terpoets and other groups on campus … we have an awesome place that was built by UMD students so we figure we might as well give back and do something for them.”

The next open mic at Board and Brew will be June 13.

Featured Photo Credit: Doug Burdette, lead guitarist of Box Era during their feature performance at the Board and Brew open mic. Burdette is a former student at this university. Pictured in back right, drummer Mitch Faulkner (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter).

Cassie Osvatics is a senior English major and can be reached at cosvatics@gmail.com.

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