The stairs down to The Orbit Room lead songwriters and audience members to a place of togetherness, where music is a tool for open expression and community. On Dec. 6, local musicians Shaun McDermott and Pablo Fuentes co-hosted the second anniversary of the club they co-founded in 2021, the Cosmic Songwriters Club.
Fuentes, a blues singer with the stage name “Oso Blues,” moved to Bloomington in 2021 and met McDermott at the Board of Directors of the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre. Both have a shared passion for music and songwriting, which led them to collaborate with The Orbit Room owner, Mike Klinge, to host songwriting showcases for local artists.
“It’s a really powerful way for people to express themselves, to connect, to heal,” Fuentes said.
He also explained that within Bloomington, he and McDermott have been able to work with a large number of arts and humanities artists within the community, including the songwriters attending the showcase.
McDermott said the format of their showcases allow for a space where a songwriter is both a performer and an audience member.
At the showcase, two artists take to the stage at the same time and take turns performing a song. Before each song they talk about their inspiration for the song, such as where they were emotionally while writing it or the thought process behind the lyrics. At the showcase, eight songwriters were paired up for four total acts.
McDermott moved to Bloomington in 2004 and followed his love of songwriting. He and Fuentes debuted the club in December of 2021. The two have a goal for creating a community within Bloomington, a place where songwriters feel safe to share their work and connect with one another through their art.
“We connect audiences with songwriters,” McDermott said. “We connect songwriters with one another. That was really there from the start.”
Klinge opened The Orbit Room five years ago and is also an American Folk Stomp musician and a member of the band “T.V. Mike and the Scarecrowes.” So far, he said he’s hosted around 150 bands at the venue.
“That’s what’s great about Bloomington, it’s a town full of hungry patrons of the arts and artists,” he said.
One songwriter and past performer Emily Plazek, whose stage name is “Millaze,” joined the Cosmic Songwriters Club when it first began in 2021. She has built a songwriting career for herself with 13.3k followers on Instagram and hopes to book more gigs in the future.
Plazek said she uses music as a tool to process emotions, hoping to find healing through writing. She was asked to host the Cosmic Songwriters Club’s women’s, transgender and non-binary showcase last year and plans to perform in this year’s February show.
“I’m always very impressed by the level of professionalism,” she said.
She also said the Cosmic Songwriters Club has been able to create a safe space for artists like her, claiming that it’s one of the best parts about the events.
At the showcase, local artists Adam deWeber, a country and Americana performer, and Amanda Webb, who is a part of a blues rock band and sings rock, performed their original songs amongst the other songwriters. They were paired together and took turns performing their two songs each. Webb sang about the hardships of big life changes and having to let go of her past, while deWeber sang of hope and discouragement in love.
DeWeber met Fuentes through a friend who mentioned he should look into joining the Cosmic Songwriters Club.
“It was a group of like minded individuals who want to make art and who are already making art,” he said.
He and Webb met at a house gathering of one of their friends, where groups often share their music with one another, and have since planned to co-write songs together.
Before the showcase began, Fuentes hung up signs that read, “Listening room,” on the walls, which is something both artists appreciated. DeWeber explained that normally, music played at bars is seen as something to talk over or to not pay attention to. However, at showcases in The Orbit Room, audience members and songwriters listened with full attention and silence, with the exception of laughter and light hearted cheers.
Webb has made a living with her songwriting as the lead musician in “Amanda Webb Band.” The band performs her original blues rock music.
At the Cosmic Songwriters Club’s anniversary show, Webb took to the stage at the keyboard. She and deWeber took turns singing their own original songs, then began harmonizing with one another in each other's songs. It was something unplanned, yet something special about having two artists on the stage at once.
When discussing her songwriting process, Webb said it takes analyzing lyrics and reshaping sentences in order to make them fit together properly.
“Writing a song isn’t just throwing down words on a piece of paper,” she said. “A really good one that’s going to resonate over decades and with a lot of people requires proper crafting.”
The original songs were performed with heartfelt mourning, playful lyrics and metaphors used to describe complicated feelings. By the end, one of the performers, Jeremy Wayne Taylor, an acoustic and alternative rock guitarist and singer, sang a song dedicated to his wife, April Taylor. She was in attendance for his song titled, “Sweet April Showers.” Before performing, he explained that he and his wife have been together since eighth grade. Once the song ended, the crowd erupted in claps and cheers.
Ending the night with a celebration of love, Fuentes and McDermott hugged and congratulated performers. They packed up the speakers and microphone cords, and guitars were put back into cases until the next time they’ll be played again.