Open Mic nights at BloomBars pop the “AU bubble”
The Columbia Heights bar offers a community feel without alcohol
Located in the heart of Columbia Heights, BloomBars is something of a hidden treasure. The arts and community center was created in 2008 and runs off donations and help from volunteers. Despite the name, BloomBars doesn’t serve drinks. Instead, the community center focuses on redefining the meaning of “bar,” offering art rather than alcohol.
BloomBar hosts a variety of events every week including film screenings, dance workshops, concerts and yoga classes. When stepping into BloomBars for its open mic night earlier this month, I was immediately struck by the theme of art and nature that encompasses the venue. Colorful signs with poetic quotes decorate the walls, inspiring imagination and passion. “Creativity waters the roots of D.C.; come in, watch them bloom,” one sign reads. On stage at the back of the venue, instruments hang from the walls and yet another sign proclaims “You Bloom, We Bloom.”
The venue is small and filled to the brim with positive energy. “Artist-in-Bloom” Elena Lacayo introduced the open mic event that I attended and gave background on the mission of BloomBars, before leading the audience in practice rounds of applause. She asked that the crowd cheer loudly for all performers and help create a welcoming atmosphere. While only ten people were in the audience for the first few acts, a sincere applause echoed throughout the venue for the entirety of the night.
BloomBars’ open mic night showcased a level of creativity and talent that’s usually hard to find in D.C. Singer-songwriters played indie pop, piano pop and acoustic folk songs. A young girl prefaced her spoken word with a disclaimer that she was terrified, before launching into a strong, emotional performance that touched on addiction, relationships and depression. A storyteller and stand-up comedian spun self-deprecating tales about New Orleans, alcoholism and graffiti. The event finished with the special feature of the night, singer-songwriter Jahnel Daliya, who performed several songs that covered topics from travel to her struggles with sleep paralysis.
As it was my first open mic I wasn’t sure what to expect from the night, but I left with a deeper appreciation for this city. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with classes, work, and internships and never leave the “AU bubble.” But there’s more to D.C. than Tenleytown, monumenting and late-night Ben’s Chili Bowl runs. Spaces like BloomBars offer a way to connect in a different way with where we live and to experience the strong community of artists in this city. With its intimate setting and creative, positive energy, BloomBars was the perfect way to spend a weekday night. If you’re looking to express yourself or experience others’ art, make sure to check out the BloomBars event page.