The Capitol Heights

After Action Report – Modern Times Coffehouse

Posted 07-26-2014

Modern Times Coffehouse is located below the Politics and Prose bookstore, which is off of Connecticut Avenue near the 495 junction. It’s a little bit out there. Like many book-cafe-readtheentirebooksoyoudontneedtobuyit stores, it’s not the largest of places, yet its got soul (but is not a soldier). There’s no sound system here so everything is played acoustic – warts and all. The linoleum floors and small size create an echochamber of sorts causing me flashbacks of playing in my parent’s basement. One of the neatest things about this place is that you must project to be heard, which is a somewhat lost art in this day and age of club music and looping stations. And now I sound old. Our only real complaint was the giant air conditioner that added a rumble track to everyone’s performance until someone turned it off. (It never got that hot without it.)

Aaaaannnyway . . . the information for this event is posted here, and is extremely informative. Which is odd for an open mic and we found it to be quite useful. The instructions for attending the open mic had us worried as they drive the point home that you need to get there early. There were only 10 slots on the sign up sheet and we got there right as it opened. The list filled up instantly. Glad we got there early. We rarely listen to directions so they’re good for something I guess.

Maureen runs this event and we found her and some of her colleagues upon entering. There were lots of musicians with their instruments already out and it felt like we were walking into a cage match and everyone was getting their weapons ready. #THUNDERDOME. The event started promptly at 8:00 PM, just as the website instructions stated. We are here to tell you that is never the case. Ever. This was shaping up to be an odd evening. Maureen announced that we would be taking turns playing, with everyone singing a single song, at which time we would rinse and repeat after all 10 who had signed up played a song. This was an odd format, but it ensures that everyone has a turn relatively quickly, and that you get to see a lot of different acts. Much like Mitch Hedberg and tiny flags – we were for it!

There was a lot of talent here, but some acts seemed to be a little out of place – such as the Blink 182 style song someone played. The first act we’ll mention is Gary Elders. He has a giant music notation guitar strap which was unique and we loved. His voice was deep and reverberated across the whole coffeehouse, that frankly, we could of used more of. Unfortunately, we didn’t know any of the songs that he played but his site states that he specializes in Old Time Country, and he hit that nail right on the head.

Gary Elders pickin' away

Our first song was our Scissor Sisters cover (hey we’re still recording music – leave us alone!). It went well and we really enjoyed the sound of the venue. Josh forgot the same bit of lyrics he always does, even after having it written on a sticky note on his guitar! After our song came to a close, there was moderate yet polite applause and we sat back down. Some in the audience recognized it which made our nubile hearts flutter.

Soon after, Zeni walked the plank. This women sang with a voice beyond her years. She was awesome in the truest since of the word. One of her songs had one of those guitar tap/slap grooves and jesus did she sing soulfully. We are going to try and book a show or two with her in the future. She is probably our favorite artist that we’ve encountered in DC so far. I’ve been trying to recreate her water song by humming to myself for days now to no avail. You need to check her out if you get a chance.

The second round of everyone playing was a little less organized on purpose. People more or less lined up in a random order. Our second song was Wagon Wheel by Old Crow / Dylan (not Darius Rucker). We invited the violin player – who had been playing with every other musician at some point – to play with us. He happily said he knew the song, asked for an A chord presumably for tuning purposes (looking back, maybe it was for something much more nefarious…), and we were off. Performing with someone you’ve never played with before can be tricky. In my experience, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure as hell helps. But this guy was a pro and we added in extra stanzas so he could solo via odd head gestures and eye contact. About halfway in – the whole place started singing along and it was a wonderful feeling!


Soon after, Maureen hopped up and she said it was a gentlemen’s birthday. Everyone sang their own individual happy birthday song to the gentlemen, and frankly I expected this group of musicians to be a little more coordinated. The cacophony and I silently laughed together. One person brought a giant jug and blew into it old style to draw out pitches. It was fun. Later, he brought out this bad boy, a homemade string bass:


And that’s the thing about this place: community. Everyone seemed to know each other because and they were all regulars. They finished each other’s lyrics, wrote songs about each other, and shared their lives and souls. It was truly wonderful and surprising. Definitely not something we expect to see elsewhere on our open mic venture, but we hope DC proves us wrong. Heaven knows it’s happened before.

Artist Info


Her facebook is all up in here and her Youtube channel is right here.

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