Every last Tuesday of the month the famed Bowery Poetry Club in downtown Manhattan is home to something of a Hip Hop communion. This year February 28th, however, marked the last date New York City’s monthly Bondfire open mic night will be held.
On stage Bondfire welcomed poets, rappers, and singers to share their talents in front of an encouraging audience. Off stage Bondfire was an artist-driven community based on love and support, fostering connections between artists, photographers, videographers, writers and painters well after everyone’s sets were done. For almost 5 years the open mic night, dubbed by participants “mic open” night, nurtured the talent of acts like Tah Phrum Duh Bush, iAreConscious, PremRock, Jesse Abraham, Emcee Jermaine (whose recent EP: “Jermaine’s EP” was celebrated last night) and brand new Stones Throw Records signee Homeboy Sandman.
Bondfire was organized by emcee/host The Bronx Uber Villain (also known as iAreConscious and Conscious), WBAI 99.5FM-NY Rise Up Radio host Tasty Keish (pictured above) and DJ Boosh Wheelz. It’s intention was established from the start: The creation of an environment of love, respect, and art to showcase talent of male and female artists. As a monthly event Bondfire even introduced charity fundraisers, clothing drives and other ways to give back to the community.
Recently that environment was violated when a nonmember stole Tasty Keish’s laptop at the event. Anyone who lives on their computer can tell you that’s quite a loss but anyone who also makes a living from work on their computer will tell a different tale of woe. Although her irreplaceable voiceover work files won’t be recovered, Tasty Keish’s laptop was replaced with donations from the Bondfire community she helped build.
The Bondfire Season Finale night’s mood was more upbeat than somber even as the performers prefaced their own sets with memories and glowing sentiments about the monthly gathering. This was no stag party with testosterone drenched rhymes ice grilling the competition and complementing each other the way “pretty girls” do- reluctantly. There was some real talent in the house and an active, engaged audience ready to applaud. As soon as an artist’s set was done they hopped off stage and into the audience to applaud the next act.
Despite all of that this is still the last month for Bondfire. Its organizers say it’s more of a hiatus than an ending and that’s not just public relations talk. “Bondfire is more than a monthly show so of course it’s not over. It’s been fours years and we need to think business. And the larger picture,” organizer Conscious said. So what’s next? “BondfireU- that’s workshops and panels. The expansion of #TeamBondfire, more missions to help people that need it” he answered.
No date has been given for when the New York City Hip Hop staple will return but for now it seems like the community isn’t burning out. What’s striking about Bondfire is that it’s orientation is the opposite of what’s happening in Hip Hop now: A loving community that’s also outwardly community oriented. “Bondfire: each flames builds the fire…an entity providing a blueprint for affecting change through cultivating proactive communities,” Conscious explained. So as long as there’s positive change to be made in our communities Bondfire’s flames will continue to burn.