Red Cup Cafe draws an eclectic mix of performers to its open mic night

MUKILTEO — Your first step to fame could come at The Red Cup Cafe.

Every summer Wednesday evening, it is a venue for both first-time and well-known local performers. Singers, dancers, comedians and poets all are given a stage for 10 minutes, performing for a welcoming and friendly audience.

The open-mic night, sponsored by the Mukilteo Arts Guild, was launched nine years ago on something of a whimsy. The cafe’s stage overlooks Possession Sound and Whidbey Island. “This would be a great place to have an open-mic night,” remarked Steve Schmalz, husband of Christine Awad Schmalz, president and co-founder of the arts guild.

Since then, it’s become home to a parade of performers, both young and, well, those with years of experience.

Joanne Davis was one of the first performers to participate in open-mic night nine years ago. She’s been such a regular with her eclectic mix of music — covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Garth Brooks — that she nearly always opens the show. Look for her dressed in signature cowboy boots and flashy red cap.

“I love it down there,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful place. I can’t imagine not going.”

Gary Davis, of Marysville, is another open-mic regular, known for his acoustic guitar performances. Davis said he’s seen first-time performers who have braved their nerves to step up to the mic. “It seems like they always end up doing a pretty good job,” he said.

The cafe’s location, with a lush garden and overlook of the bay, is a “drop dead beautiful spot,” he said. “It’s a very unique venue — and it’s got great coffee.”

Elaine Skeffington of Mukilteo used her performances at open mic as something of a launching pad. Skeffington first performed there about seven years ago, after prodding from her daughter. She said, “‘Mom, why don’t you sing anymore? I want to hear you sing.’ It kind of lit a fire under me.”

The first time she performed, “I thought I was going to be sick,” Skeffington said. Yet she knew that the only way to get better was to push herself out of what felt comfortable.

“The great thing about open mics is it’s wonderful for aspiring musicians who don’t have a venue or regular audience,” she said. “You find the most wonderful, supportive people at open mics. If they aren’t there to perform, they’re understanding of what it’s like getting the courage up.”

Skeffington, who now performs as part of an acoustic duo, Ivy Lane, said she’s not sure how her career would have progressed had she not taken the step of performing at open-mic nights.

“It built my confidence,” she said. “I learned how to be a performer.”

The open-mic performances are just one of the activities organized by the arts guild. Others include an annual Waterfront Arts Festival, scheduled for Aug. 28 at the Rosehill Community Center. It’s one of the activities that benefits a scholarship fund for students at Mariner, Kamiak and ACES high schools. More information on arts guild activities are available at www.mukilteoarts.org.

Sharon Salyer: 425-3390-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

Open mic

The open mic night at the Red Cup Cafe, a free event, is held from 6 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday through Sept. 3. The cafe is at 619 Fourth St. in Mukilteo. Anyone interested in performing should call 425-423-0450.

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