Pictured left to right: Frontmen of “HappynoT” Cameron Thomas and Karim Moussa perform at the band’s Weekly Open-Mic at Sixth College. Photo Credit to Alexander Olsen (@alexanderthefriendly) and UCSD Guardian.
It isn’t often that one can say that they’ve been to a “banging” concert during a pandemic. However, the vaccine rollout and proper UC San Diego COVID-19 protocol has allowed for larger congregations to take place recently; it’s reasonable to say that the most uplifting of these events are the Weekly Open-Mic Sessions hosted by the up-and-coming band “HappynoT.”
Many students and administrators have seen them before, jamming in front of Café Ventanas with a guitar amplifier you don’t know the name of, while singing songs you know every line to. Nowadays, you’re likely to hear the twang of Karim Moussa’s blues improvisation on your way to get dinner at Rooftop or Cameron Thomas’s angelic vibrato whilst picking up a latte from the Sixth Market. HappynoT has evolved into a beacon of light for UCSD students by creating a sense of community by playing on the most relatable facet of the human experience — music.
“The sense of community probably comes from going to school where music was never really a center-stage for anything … The only time I was really around other musicians was at my piano lesson recitals,” Thomas told The UCSD Guardian. “Meeting Karim and finally getting this understanding into the guitar community that is priceless and translates to the performances.”
The charming duo crossed paths the day before they started studying at John Muir College back in the fall of 2019, largely due to Thomas’s affinity for playing his acoustic guitar around campus. After a few jam sessions and a few instances of falling out, the group plopped themselves down in front of the Middle of Muir coffee shop and piqued interest among students — until UCSD administration became involved.
“Everything was fine and dandy up until the next day, when the entire Muir College gets an email that says ‘It has come to our attention that there was a concert that was played around 6 pm on Saturday … currently UCSD is not open to public organized events,” Thomas recalled in an interview with The Guardian. “It was then that we moved to ERC… however, Sixth College was seeing that big stage and imagining in my head what [future performances] could be.”
A typical open-mic goes as follows: the two legends open up shop firing away on their instruments while students amass on the lawn in front of the stone stage. An employee from the Sixth Market will bring some complementary iced tea to the performers, only to be showered with praise from the audience. After their warm up, artists drawn from a comprehensive setlist plug themselves in and start jamming away. Performances range from solo acoustic guitar pieces to full-band covers of popular songs, drawing many students of different backgrounds to join in on the fun.
Among the Cafe Ventanas employees and international students volunteering is indie artist Alex Miller, a first-year at Seventh College who is also known as “alexmillerjamz” on Instagram and Spotify. Miller disclosed that the level of crowd involvement at the shows is incredibly inspiring and that getting involved is so easy.
“The biggest thing that inspires me about performing is seeing improvement in myself,” Miller told The Guardian.”I haven’t been singing for long, so forcing myself to sing in front of people has made me be better due to my fear of absolutely butchering the song.”
Their final huzzah is meant to strike a chord: the band is holding their final show of the year on June 4th to raise money for Lebanon in light of multiple developments.
Nearly 300,000 Lebanese citizens became unemployed due to the Beirut explosion last August. Additionally, the middle-eastern country is experiencing an economic crisis where the country’s national currency, the Lebanese pound has sunk by 90 percent, manifesting as the worst crisis the country has faced since the Lebanese Civil War.
Individuals can visit HappynoT’s GoFundMe page to find out more about the conflict and how they can offer aid to Lebanon. All proceeds are directed to the Lebanese Red Cross, an organization which has given direct cash assistance to 248,000 Lebanese citizens. HappynoT’s fundraising goal is $1000.
People can find out more about HappynoT through their Instagram page “@happtnotxo.” The band responds to every inquiry within a relatively speedy timeframe, which can range from vocalizing the desire to perform or wanting to say a simple “Hello!”