Inside Louisville’s underground art community

One of the things that I have always loved about Louisville is that the city never tries to be anything but itself. Sure, you can go do the typical tourist things, but there are a lot of amazing artists who are wanting their songs, poems or comedy to be heard. On the fourth Friday of every month, these artists come together for Sub Rosa: The Gypsy Courtyard.

Sltr Dvn and Wize Mathematiks perform “Sha-Healing” at Bearno’s in the Highlands, Louisville, Kentucky.

What started as a congregation of artists on Monday nights turned into a public showcase of artists at Louisville night spots. The locations have switched over the years, but the artists now perform at Bearno’s┬áin the Highlands. Last night, they took over two locations in the bar.

When I walked in, a guitarist was finishing up his set on the makeshift stage in the middle of the bar. A crowd of 20-somethings were watching with anticipation as CPHR DVN set up to perform. The duo made up of Sltr Dvn and Wize Mathematiks met eight years ago in Hawaii and began the partnership that brought them to Louisville. Sltr Dvn was the songstress, using her voice to provide the soft melody of their music. Wize Mathematiks would interject with a moderate paced rap. The lyrics and the beat captivated the audience. I looked around and saw the majority of the room were nodding their heads up and down in agreement.

But this is only half of Sub Rosa. The other half goes to the backyard of Bearnos (which up until last night, I never knew existed). A more intimate crowd was watching a poet. Then the set up began for Sarah Davis, a fire juggler. Dressed in gypsy garb, Sarah swung fiery chains around in circles to a music that would probably be background in a movie set in India. At times, Sarah would pause and let the fire stay on the ground during breaks in the music, but when the tempo picked up, she would pick up the chains once again and finished in a dazzle of swirling lights.

Sarah Davis holds fire during a dancing performance at Sub Rosa.

Sub Rosa is full of a variety of characters, but if you’re looking for a free performance or a chance to get on stage during your travel, this is the place to do it. While I was doing standup comedy, this would be one of the places that I performed. I would imagine as a comedian the layout allows for a better environment for that style of performance. People wanting to listen generally hang out on the back patio, while people wanting to talk with background music hang out in the front.

If you do want to perform, arrive early. The sign up list fills quickly, and there are no time constraints. You don’t want to be waiting until 2 a.m. to perform. Plus, it’s a chance to meet some great people in the art scene.

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