Stevie Wilkes participates in the slam poetry competition at Ralph's. (Photo by Stephanie Brinks)

Stevie Wilkes participates in the slam poetry competition at Ralph's. (Photo by Stephanie Brink)

By Stephanie Brink

If you think there’s nothing to do on a Monday night in Worcester, you just haven’t been to Ralph’s.

Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner Dirty Gerund Poetry Night on Mondays offers up some eclectic entertainment along with the venue’s usual drinks and delicious burgers. Placed in the ambience of a former fire station with red lighting, Ralph’s is the perfect space for an open mic night. The creative styles of the slam poets, singers and artists that perform there are able to engage their audience. The performers’ eccentricity only serves to accent the odd signs and statues crowded into the cozy diner’s space.

Despite the very Worcester vibe, Ralph’s has been pulling in performers from outside the Worcester area as well. The progressive band The Fierce Urgency of Now, from Providence, Rhode Island, performed there last Monday. A highlight during open mic Monday night is that many songs allow for audience contribution, resulting in a diverse and fast-paced show and keeping the audience rejuvenated with the constant stage changes. Amateurs and professionals alike are all given a chance to take the stage and freely perform. It’s a diverse lineup.

A 21-year-old going by the name of Jon Von Wonderful maintained the audience’s attention last week by wearing a mask and getting them to stand and dance to his own recreated music.  He has been performing at Ralph’s since July and he has gotten a great response with his use of chiptune – a method of creating synthesized, electronic music with sound chips from old computers or game consoles.

“It gives me confidence to know that I can connect with the audience through my theatrics and personality and as a result, I can protect the city from bad music while expressing myself,” Von Wonderful says.

Performer Jon Von Wonderful at Ralph's. (Photo by Stephanie Brinks)

Performer Jon Von Wonderful at Ralph's. (Photo by Stephanie Brink)

And express he does, urging the audience dance and express themselves with him as well. With his music, the entire audience showed a collective and harmonious vibe, representing the exact environment that Ralph’s open mic night creates.

It’s not all quirky chiptunes, though. Johnny D of Cambridge has a humorous yet crass poetic style in his open poetry readings. He shows that open mic Monday nights are all about pushing the limits and expressing oneself, no matter what that entails. Last week’s reading of a piece titled “To my #1 Fan,” kept the audience roaring with laughter. In a letter showing his well honed skills of sarcasm and impudence to this person who was, in fact, not a fan but a critic of his work, he inevitably encouraged the audience to appreciate that one should always have the freedom to write as they feel.

“The bar in general has this Cheers-esque feel; everyone either knows your name or wants to get to know your name. That’s ultimately what makes the audience at Monday’s open mic nights keep coming back for more,” Von Wonderful says.

Ralph’s Dirty Gerund Poetry Show runs every Monday night starting at 8 p.m. It’s a 21-plus show with no cover charge.

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