WILLISTON — On the first Friday of every month, there is an event which defies the artistic odds in Williston. Anywhere from 20 to 50 musicians, poets, rappers, comedians, and spectators gather for the monthly open mic called Poetry Out Loud!: "The Mouthful".
Guests, like the performers, represent a huge cross-section of Williams County. Work boots quietly tap in time alongside loafers and tennis shoes as a variety of talents grace the stage during each event. It seems as though these seldom seen local artists inexplicably come out of the woodwork, but The Mouthful owes its unique draw primarily to very specific location choices.
Thomas Farrenkopf, the de-facto ringleader and founding father, has kept The Mouthful out of bars in order to appeal to a wider range of artists and offer a second option for those looking to go out on a Friday evening. Sticking to coffee shops or the James Memorial Art Center, and once at the Frontier Museum in Williston, The Mouthful has finally found a permanent home at Lantern Coffee Company.
Lantern Coffee allows the open mic to operate without a cover charge, and even provides free coffee during the event. "You don't have to pay to get in, but you can always tip one of the musicians with a coffee," Farrenkopf advises.
It's not about a big monetary payoff for Farrenkopf, it's always been about bringing together a community of atypical artists that seem to be in a type of diaspora.
"It's never the same faces every time, but a couple of the musicians are regulars. It's always unexpected who shows up. No one tells me if they're coming. It's kind of an adrenaline rush." Farrenkopf noted. Putting up flyers around town, emceeing, and telling self-professed "bad jokes", have been Farrenkopf's main contributions since the conception of the open mic night. It hasn't always been an easy road, but seeing it through location changes and sparsely attended nights has finally paid off and people are beginning to come in droves.
Recently, Lantern Coffee had to file for a second occupancy permit to accommodate the growing crowd. “We've always had our occupancy permit, but to have that many people in the back shop [Basin Safety], we needed a second occupancy permit." General Manager Louise Skaare explained.
With the structure and stage provided, artists freely engage themselves during the open mic. There's a sign-up sheet to maintain a simple order of performances in the beginning, but as the night progresses and people get comfortable, it turns into an open conversation and the kind of turn-taking our grade school teachers ineffectively tried to instill in us.
Pop tunes, rap, poetry, spoken word, and original songs follow in no particular order. However, one theme generally rings true throughout the evening — artists often share pieces with a deeply personal origin.
A song written by Kalie Rider, of the duo Gettin' Outta Dodge, demonstrates the effect our recent oil boom had on her as an artist. "I wrote this song at the beginning of the boom, when I found it kind of overwhelming and depressing." Rider stated. The song includes lyrics that are haunting yet understanding.
Giddy on up white truck but don't press your luck
you got two kids at home
wife calls on the phone
I'm getting on out of this town
Can't handle the crowds
This place is your savior and my Lucifer.
Rider says she doesn't feel that way so much anymore, but it's indicative of the many alternative, meaningful, gems you can hear at The Mouthful.
There's no cost, free coffee, always applause, and no reason not to join Poetry Out Loud: “The Mouthful” open mic night, hosted at Lantern Coffee Company the first Friday of each month from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. For more information, contact Thomas Farrenkopf at 701-570-0294.