On Monday night, February 15th, a few friends and I took a seat at the bar inside the club room, just inside and to the right at Stella’s Lounge. Bob The Bartender was excited to contribute to this project, apparently so happy to help that he must have slipped word to Foster and Fable, some of the talented individuals that started Drunken Retort. Before the event officially began I felt the hand of Foster on my shoulder.
“And you need an interview from us. Is that right?” I was starstruck.
Drunken Retort (DR) is the acoustic slam, comedy, and otherwise freestyle event that you can find at Stella’s Lounge every Monday night at 8:30-10 or 11 pm. Before 10 pm, minors are allowed in accompanied with someone 21 and up. After 10 it’s 21 and up only. The show will be three years old in April.
Every 3 months there’s a theme, which can range from “Old Shit”, “Awful Shit/High School Shit”, LGBTQ night and more. Foster and Fable, the parents of DR, have been in the open mic business for years. Fable, a.k.a. Fable The Poet, has been doing open mic events in the Grand Rapids area for seven years. Foster’s poetry is four years old, but he started hip-hop in 2008.
At the beginning of every show, one of the creatives that works on DR takes the mic and reminds the crowd of the four rules.
Rule 1. The Yell Rule. If you like what you hear, make some noise.
Rule 2. The Bell Rule. There are red plastic bells on the tables and bar for the crowd to ring if they don’t like the talent. Three strikes and you’re off the stage, buddy.
Rule 3. Shut The F*ck Up. Simply put, don’t talk while someone is performing. If you disturb the talent, Rachel, Foster, and Fable come up with a new punishment you’ll have to endure.
Rule 4: The Tell Rule. The opposite of Fight Club, these guys want you to spread the word. In fact, if you let one of the DR regulars know that you have three new visitors with you, they’ll buy you a drink.
After a few performances to kick off the show, I got the chance to talk DR with Fable The Poet.
Best Drunken Retort Story?
“A couple of months ago someone read for the first time, and during the set they broke down crying. I followed her out of the room to see what was up, and she just told me how grateful and thankful she was for the opportunity to speak in front of the crowd.
Later that girl’s friend approached me and thanked us, too. She said ‘She’s not allowed to do that.’ I guess her relationship did not allow for her to talk about her pieces.
Thats why I love this. It’s a safe space. People listen to you. You hear genuine words every time.”
What drink goes best with DR?
“The Poet. New Holland actually helps the show out so we can sell them for $3 on Mondays.”
Rachel, another collaborator on the Drunken Retort team and the third component to Diatribe, also sat down with me to chat.
What kind of work is Diatribe doing now?
“Diatribe goes into different schools. We hold workshops and assemblies to show kids that their voices are important. We share their work and help develop their craft.”
When did you start performing your work?
“I wrote a poem in school and performed at a writing center show at Grand Valley. I enjoyed that so I went on to perform other pieces at slam competitions and won first and second place at Greenmill in Chicago.
I’m a full time artist. It’s tough. I’ve been all over Grand Rapids.”
What drinks go best with DR?
“Jameson. I actually have this performance that we close out some of the shows with where I sing a whiskey song while people feed me whiskey shots. I love doing that. I always walk away drunk.”
Foster also got in on some questions.
What do you do for Drunken Retort?
“I am whatever needs to be done. I am the business side, Fable is the creative. Together with Rachel and Aziz, it’s been a great formula.”
Whats your favorite part of the show?
“How different everyone is. I have this belief that no two people are the same on the inside. As long as you can find one thing in common, you can build on that. I can bring people together wherever I am.”
What drinks go best with DR?
“For me, Jameson. Shots, tequila. For a Stella’s drink, the Basil Lemonade is delicious.”
This team, these incredible people that put on this show every Monday at Stella’s Lounge, are clearly devoted to DR. Each member of Diatribe cares about what they do, and have a passion for creativity and freedom (and whiskey). If you’re looking for a new experience or just something to do on Monday nights, I urge you to visit Stella’s Lounge for Drunken Retort. Stella’s is located at 53 Commerce Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI.