Two Years Of Last Saturdays

Two Years Of Last Saturdays
Staff Photo Dane La Born Jeh-Sea Wells of Dead Indian performs a solo acoustic set at Last Saturday at the Fayetteville Underground, June 27.

Staff Photo Dane La Born
Jeh-Sea Wells of Dead Indian performs a solo acoustic set at Last Saturday at the Fayetteville Underground, June 27.

For two years, Houston Hughes has been running his pet project, Last Saturday, and it’s grown exponentially from its humble beginnings.

The event, held on the last Saturday of each month, is a slam poetry and variety show held the last Saturday of every month at the Fayetteville Underground, on the square. On the final weekend of the month, Last Saturday provides a platform for local artists, poets, and performers to strut their stuff. It’s played almost like a game show, each performer getting ten minutes to rock your socks off with whatever they should choose. From burlesque and cabaret performances, to stand up comedy and unplugged original music; the only limit is literally what you can imagine.

“In 2012, I went on a tour of the west coast and found that a bunch of slams there were part of a bigger show, rather than a show just made of an open mic and slam,” Hughes said. “I’d been trying for a while to spice up slams by getting musicians to perform sets, but after that trip I decided the better idea was to just make the slam one of many acts, and to kill the open mic entirely. I started contacting performer friends and the show started with more or less the same format it has now; Four acts, plus the Word War [Poetry Slam]”

Bustling behind the scenes to ensure the show goes on and goes well is a small but very dedicated group of people. Houston himself does all the organization, including booking the acts, writing scripts, PR, running the sound, and probably most importantly, hosting. The only person who is still there and has been from the very beginning is Madeleine Applegate-Gross.

“The first time we did this, everything came out of our own pockets,” she said. “Houston provided the $50 grand prize, and I bought all the beer and snacks. We depended on the donations to pay us back.”

Donations are how Last Saturday has survived, and how it has grown from a few friends in a small room to encompassing an entire gallery room in the Fayetteville Underground. “That red thing in the back? Fill that shit UP!” Houston shouted as the show began, to the laughs of the crowd.

At the start of 2015, Last Saturday partnered with Last Night Fayetteville as a single non-profit, so Houston and Madeleine are no longer filling the coffers out of their own pockets. Donations are still all that’s required from the people attending, though in this writer’s opinion, their content and following is good enough to demand a cover charge. It stands as a mark to the Fayetteville spirit Last Saturday carries that I’m fairly positive that’s never even been a thought. It’s free entertainment, and it’s a lot of fun.

The Experience

I had the privilege of attending my first Last Saturday on their second birthday. The energy in the room was fairly palpable. It was obvious that all of the people, be they audience or performer, felt a good degree of comfort with one another.

The band that performed, Dead Indian, ended up being a few members short, but their front man carried himself wonderfully with nothing but a mic and a guitar. Adam Cox rocked the crowd with an acoustic as well. Local comedian Jonathan Shannon cracked the crowd up, and there were some wonderfully choreographed burlesque and cabaret performances, with hula hoops and red lace.

The treat for me though was the Word War. I’ve always been fairly fond of slam poetry, and having plied myself as a critic for the better part of a decade, shot my hand in the air like an excited third-grader who finally got the answer when Hughes called for judges from the crowd.

One by one, eight wonderfully talented poets poured their souls into a microphone and I had to grade them on a scale of 1-10. There were decimal points, as if we were grading dives. It wasn’t until later I realized that 9.9 wasn’t the highest, or a certain blue-haired young woman who wowed the crowd on two separate occasions would have gotten that perfect score twice. But there wasn’t a single person who got up there and performed who didn’t belong. That’s what makes poetry and performance of any kind wonderful; when you can feel how at home the person on stage feels, and how comfortable the audience is with them there.

Last Saturday is a local venture, after all, and we are nothing if not a town that loves one another, when it comes right down to it.

Categories: Music