Students gather for the first Shakedown Sounds open-mic of the year

A cafe overlooks a pool at sunset.
The Shakedown Cafe, a student led organization on the Pitzer campus, is next to the Pitzer pool. Shakedown Sounds is hosted outside of the Shakedown Cafe. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

Dim, warm lights brightened up the fence of Pitzer’s pool as students clustered and engaged in conversation on the grass. As melodic voices and the soothing sound of acoustic guitar filled the space, people swayed back and forth, taking in the lively atmosphere. 

The first Shakedown Sounds had officially commenced. 

Singers, poets, performers and observers alike gathered Sept. 26 outside the Shakedown Cafe, Pitzer College’s student-run cafe, for “Endless Hot Girl Summer” — the first Shakedown Sounds of the year. 

The event is open-mic and welcomes singing, slam poetry, stand-up comedy and anything else that students want to share every other Thursday, starting at 8:30 p.m.

Theo Kolbrener PZ ’21, this year’s primary coordinator of Shakedown Sounds, has played a part in the event for three years. 

“Shakedown Sounds is an amazing opportunity for people to come together as a community to watch and support each other, especially because it’s a platform on Pitzer’s campus that is otherwise kind of lacking,” Kolbrener said. 

Unlike closed-door dorm rooms or invite-only type events, Shakedown Sounds is performed at the Shakedown Cafe, a public space for student artists that’s open to everyone.

Whether you’re a performer, audience member or just want to hang out with friends, Kolbrener believes Shakedown Sounds creates an inclusive space for students to unite on campus.

Shakedown Sounds is also unlike an open-mic one might attend at a coffee shop because it’s held within the 5C community. 

“Here, we know the people,” Kolbrener said. “There’s such a sense of community, so even when you’re sharing vulnerable pieces, you know that there’s such a support system.” 

For Sasha Marlan-Librett SC ’22, this precise intimacy of Shakedown Sounds is what draws her back every time. 

“It’s a lot more special to hear music that’s live and from people you know personally,” she said. “You can also discover new friends, new music and see what others are creating or songwriting.”

The environment created at Shakedown Sounds is one of inclusivity, encouragement and warmth, Kolbrener said. 

“Often at open-mics, [it can feel] like there’s a bit of a competitive element, and that doesn’t exist at all at Shakedown Sounds,” they said. “It’s just a very supportive, lovely environment.” 

Performances at last Thursday’s event included the song “Creep” by Radiohead, performed by Carson Barry PZ ’22 and Olivia Meehan PZ ’22; “Angel from Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt and John Prine, sung by Claire Gala SC ’22, Liza Jane PZ ’20 and Meehan; poetry performed by Jordy Gertner PO ’21 and stand-up performed by Ingrid Topp-Johnson PZ ’20.

Barry has been playing music at Shakedown Sounds for over a year now. 

“I always feel a lot more confident about my music after playing it because everyone is so supportive,” she said. “Plus, I can always feel the energy of a song better once I play it for people.” 

Meehan, who sang “Creep” alongside Barry, said she loves performing at the event because it provides her the opportunity to explore her passion for singing and performing without having to commit to a career in the music industry. 

For this reason, Meehan said she plans on performing at Shakedown Sounds in the future. 

“I don’t think I want to go into music, but I definitely want to sing … I feel like this is a good opportunity to be singing in front of a crowd,” she said.

The most recent Shakedown Sounds event was a major moment for Gala — it was the day she switched from being an audience member on the sidelines to a performer on the stage. 

Gala, Meehan and Jane established their trio spontaneously, the night before Shakedown Sounds. Gala went over to hang out with Meehan, and as Meehan and Jane were practicing “Angel from Montgomery,” Gala decided to join in and make it a three-part harmony.

“I like that a major aspect of it is that it’s spontaneous and kind of random,” Gala said. “I feel like even the audience members just go to see what they’ll find. You don’t know [what] to expect and that’s the beauty of it.” 

Sebastian Wood PZ ’22, a frequent member in the audience, is a huge fan of Shakedown Sounds.

“My favorite thing about Shakedown Sounds is the accessibility,” he said. “There’s no barrier to entry. Anybody can sign up, anybody can do a set and anybody can come enjoy it. Free of cost.” 

Shakedown Sounds is an open-mic that begins at 8:30 p.m. every other Thursday. Any and all students from the 5Cs can sign up to perform at Shakedown Sounds by filling out a Google Document posted on the Shakedown Sounds’ Facebook event page. To get involved in the behind-the-scenes of the event, contact Theo Kolbrener at

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