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Coffee-Works: The Open Mic Steps into the New Age

While we zip in and out of each lane on our way to an open mic at Coffee-Works in Voorhees, New Jersey, Jesse Riddle sucks down his hand rolled cigarette.

“I’m going to bring back the ancient art of guitar solos,” he says in between drags. “Not me, myself, obviously. But, who ever I get to play in [Hey Market Riot].”Jesse has been writing music for years and I have had the pleasure of playing two shows with him as a lead guitarist. But tonight is just a solo act.

We pull up to Coffee Works as a swarm of hipster kids flood the street. It turns out that the Pop-Punk band, Man Overboard is playing a show inside Tunes. This has caused Tunes to become so packed that there is a river of scenesters spilling out into the street and screaming along to their favorite song.

Ignoring the kids, we head inside to sign up for the open mic. If you get there even 5 minutes late, you end up being one of the last performers for the night. I put our names on the list as well as Angela Weeks. She’s on her way and I don’t want her to be stuck playing too late.

After 13 other artists, I finally get called to the stage to introduce myself. Because it was my first time playing this open mic, I was ridiculed by Bob, the host for the night. I chose to cover a song by Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s for tonight’s show because I felt that at least one hip chick in the crowd would know it. No one did.

Me Covering Margot - Taken from Coffee-Works live stream

As I softly sing each somber note, I realized that thousands of people across the world are watching me play. Right next to Bob’s soundboard sits a little webcam. The entire open mic is streamed live on the internet every week. This tiny little web cam had just blown my mind in the midst of preforming. In the year 2011, even a little coffee shop can broadcast to the entire world.

While I was on stage playing, Jesse and Angela are outside chain-smoking cigarettes and talking with the regulars. Jesse has befriended a 15-year-old saxophone prodigy, Payton, and asks him and my friend Trent, to play with him tonight as he covers “Walking on the Sun” by Smash Mouth. “I bet you’ve never heard this song played this way before,” he exclaims as he steps on stage.

Jesse doesn’t know how to play lightly on an acoustic guitar. Every time I’ve seen him play a show he always breaks at least one string. Tonight is no exception. During his song, he breaks 2 strings and rips open 2 of his fingers on his right hand. Throughout his set his hand is bleeding all over his guitar but that doesn’t slow him down. Jesse was right, no one has ever heard Smash Mouth like this before and the crowd is digging it.

Jesse(left) plays with Trent(center) and Payton(right) - Taken from Coffee-Works live stream

After a few more artists play their tunes, Angela steps into the spotlight. As she began to play, I can only think of the conversation we had just had out front. I asked her where she gets her style from.

“When I was 8 years old, I saw Jewel’s music video for “Who Will Save Your Soul” on MTV. I had never heard of her and the video was the most confusing and bizarre thing I had ever seen; yet, for some reason I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I loved the mystery in her lyrics and the sincerity in her voice. Immediately after watching it, I knew I HAD to become the next Jewel,” said Weeks.

Angela Weeks plays her original songs - Taken from Coffee-Works live stream

Her voice is reminiscent of Jewel but with more of an alternative style than a country twang. Weeks finishes her set as an eruption of audience applause ensues. After she steps off stage I asked her about her upcoming album but all she could say is that, “I am in negotiations for an album with the record label, AudioFilms Recording and Mic Inc Management. That’s all I am allowed to say publicly!”

After sticking around for a few more artists, Coffee Works Cafe in Voorhees seems more like a musicians haven than an open mic. So many talented artists, so little time. Stop by every Tuesday night for their vibrant open mic or, if you can’t make it, watch it online here!

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