Talent brews at Glenwood coffeeshop | AspenTimes.com

Talent brews at Glenwood coffeeshop

April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Known as Your Hometown Pilgrims, from left, Clay Earth Strand, Ray Curry and Noah Thyme entertain a packed house at Summit Coffee House's Open Mic Monday in Glenwood Springs. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

Lou Koleszars stands behind the microphone, wearing tall black boots and a long white scarf.

Facing him are six wooden chairs, lined up in two rows of three.

A woman sits on one chair, her legs crossed as she listens to his words.

“This is a place where nobody’s critical,” says Koleszars, a local musician who hosts Open Mic Night, which he helped bring to Summit Coffee House in downtown Glenwood Springs every Monday.

“Just be who you are,” he adds, kindly.

From musicians to poets, everyone’s welcome at Open Mic Night.

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A peek outside the large plate glass window at the coffee house reveals a wintry night in Glenwood. Snow lightly falls, then disappears as it hits the wet pavement.

Inside, Summit Coffee House is alive with the sounds of conversations taking place between friends and coffee being ground and brewed.

A man and a woman, seated at a circular wooden table, play cards while a teenager taps the keys of her computer as it sits glowing in her lap.

Before he begins to strum his guitar, Koleszars speaks to the crowd about Open Mic Night, now in its fourth week.

“This is a place where you’re just safe,” he says. “We do whatever we can do make people comfortable.”

Koleszars invites talent of all varieties to take the stage. It’s all about expressing creativity, he says.

For the next few minutes, the spotlight is on Koleszars.

“Our love is together. Together forever. Forever we are,” he sings.

A man in his 20s walks into the coffeehouse with a black guitar case hanging from his back. A young woman follows him through the door, also carrying a guitar case.

Koleszars’ acoustic offering comes to an end.

“See, there’s a perfect example – the guitar was out of tune … you just got to go on with your act,” he says.

“I didn’t notice. Did you notice?” he asks the growing crowd.

In unison, they lightheartedly say, “No.”

It’s nearing 8 p.m., and people continue to file in to the coffeehouse. They rest comfortably on the brown leather sofa and chairs and find seats at tables shared with strangers.

Customers sip coffee from white ceramic mugs as the acts change. One man eats a sandwich and reads the paper. At another table, a woman pulls up a chair and sets down a white plate with a slice of chocolate cake on it. Next up at the mic is Hannah Saliman, a16-year-old poet.

Wearing ’40s-style heels, ripped hose and short pants, she approaches the mic with a fair degree of shyness.

She reads her poem, “Falling Through,” expressing how she felt that day. She speaks of not caring who’s dating whom. Her words are personal, tender, honest. They could make any one of the adults in the room glad they’re no longer teenagers.

Open Mic Night isn’t just about the music.

Katelyn Kokeny shows her emotional side though her songs.

The 15-year-old with the brown ponytail and jeans is performing a love song she recently wrote. She sings unaccompanied by music.

“I miss you bad,” she sings. “I cry myself to sleep every night.”

Her dad, Mike, sits a few feet away, her biggest fan. The Kokeny family relocated to Glenwood Springs three months ago from western New York.

“She’s a soprano,” Mike Kokeny said. “She can really hit the high notes.”

Near the back of the room, the couple playing cards now engages in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

A group of men walk in, some wearing dreadlocks and wool hats. Cold air follows behind them, cooling off the toasty room.

Sounding far off, the chimes in the clock tower on the corner ring in the new hour as a new act takes center stage.

Tyler Baret and Lauren Stovall form Mother Madburry’s Backwood Brigade, a duo playing toe-tapping, knee-slapping newgrass.

The crowd – which has now grown to standing room only – is really getting into the music.

“Tear it up,” Koleszars shouts.

“We have 15 people on the list – this could go for another hour,” he says. “There’s just not enough of this in the valley. This is what everyone needs. The ambiance is creating itself.”

Once Your Hometown Pilgrims takes the stage, people in the audience begin to spin around and dance.

The newly formed band’s two guitarists, stand-up bass player, and back-up female vocalist already seem to have a following.

“We practiced for a few minutes before we got here, and you’re the first to hear us,” says singer and guitarist Noah Thyme, into the mic.

After all, that’s what Open Mic Night is all about.

The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.