Not a '90s coffee shop event
Stella's Lounge features hip-hop, poetry, music at open mic night
Courtesy / Rich P. Photography
Entertainment, while a major attraction in downtown Grand Rapids, is not as prevalent early in the week as it is on the weekend. However, if you find yourself inside Stella’s Backroom Bar on a Monday night, there are just four rules:
1. You yell.
2. You use bells if you dislike an act.
3. You show your appreciation for the items that you do, in fact, appreciate.
4. You tell someone about the show.
The Drunken Retort, a spoken word and acoustic open mic, features local musicians, poets, freestyle hip-hop artists and everything in between. Partnering with The Gilmore Collection and The Eastown Hookah Lounge, Stella’s Lounge, located at 53 Commerce Avenue, opens its back lounge at 8:30 p.m. and continues the entertainment and drink specials through 11:30 p.m. each Monday night.
“Yell, shout, hoot and holler,” said Marcel “Fable” Price, one of the two hosts of The Drunken Retort. “Whatever you do, do not snap — this isn’t a ‘90s coffee shop event.”
Price, along with fellow host Gregory Foster, has been hosting the show since it began in April.
“As far as I know, it is the first of its kind,” he said. “It is an acoustic open mic, which means comedy, singer-songwriter, spoken word, etc. And not only is it an acoustic open mic, but there is a gong system, which keeps the artists honest, as well as the crowd. We call it the boo/bell system.”
On Jan. 6, the subject matter of the performances varied greatly — from humorous accounts of one-night stands to pieces grounded in progressive ideology. While Price and Foster performed the majority of the pieces, the second half of the evening included a “Spit-n-Sit Round,” giving anyone and everyone an opportunity to share their work. Scattered throughout the evening were newcomers with skill sets ranging from spoken word performances to fast-paced and intricate rapping. On a typical Monday evening, some of the performances even come from Grand Valley State University students — one of whom is Foster.
“We have quite a few Grand Valley students that are involved,” he said. “GVSU alumnae Talia Fulks and Kara Williams have both performed here. It’s great for students in the area.”
Foster said he believes that shows such as the Drunken Retort allow students to witness local art while developing their own talents.
“I believe that it doesn’t matter where you go or where you’re from, you should experience as much as you can,” he said. “At The Drunken Retort, you get to see brand new growth happening. Students really get to add something to their resume.”
By the end of the evening, the audience finds no problem in following the four rules initially posed by Price. Stella’s Backroom Bar is filled with laughter, snapping, cheering, friendly taunting, and chants for encores not only through the allotted performance time, but even into the early morning hours.
“I came up with the idea and the name, ‘Drunken Retort,’” Foster said. “Some people need what is known as ‘the liquid courage’ to speak.”
Since Stella’s has started hosting the Drunken Retort, the event has only grown in popularity.
“We have a bunch of support around this right now,” Foster said. “Positivity attracts positivity, especially when you have a good thing like this going.”
While the brutal winter weather on Monday brought about the closure of GVSU’s campuses, Stella’s Lounge was more than willing to provide a safe haven for students to spend their newly acquired free time. And while this night in particular is typically reserved for schoolwork, a visit to The Drunken Retort, with its open forum for the creative sharing of ideas, can be considered time well spent.