At Cafe 44’s very first open mic night, customers were sure to get some of Princeton’s best music along with some of its best food. On February 19th, 2014, Cafe 44 took on the task of turning this popular breakfast and lunch place into a hip, night time, music filled hang out. The event was advertised by word of mouth and by a Facebook event which was sent to mostly Westminster Choir College (WCC) as well as the Cafe 44 Facebook page. The event began at 7:00 p.m and ended around 9:30 p.m. They had a $5 cover charge and it was BYOB.
The night started out strong with practically a full house, most of which were students from WCC. There was a full line up of performers for the night, so things got started promptly to make sure that all the performers would have their time to shine. In addition to solo performances, there were also duets, trios, and even a large group from WCC called The Deaftones performed three songs.
Throughout the night, many people went up to the counter to order food. In addition to Cafe 44’s regular night menu, people could also order from the breakfast menu or even from the specials board which had some discounted items specifically for open mic night. The specials were named after some of Cafe 44’s regular customers. For example, one customer who goes by Lakeland had a DELICIOUS steak sandwich dedicated to him in which Cafe 44 called the “Steakland”. This gave us a glimpse of what the relationships are like between Cafe 44 and its customers.
About half way through the event, the audience was really getting into the music, food, and atmosphere as a whole. People came and went as they pleased but in general, the placed stayed filled. It was clear that most of the people attending the event were there for the music. The audience remained generally quiet as they watched their friends perform which although it was still very enjoyable, isn’t exactly the essence of what an open mic night is supposed to be.
Because of the fact that Cafe 44 is not yet well-known for their dinner items yet, the people who attended did not know what to expect as far as food goes. However, it was clear that everyone who did order something off of the dinner menu thoroughly enjoyed it which prompted others to also order something.
Because of the success of the first open mic night, Cafe 44 has decided to have one every month.
The attendance at the second open mic night at Cafe 44 was a surprising disappointment. After the success of the first open mic night, everyone thought that round two was sure to be a hit, if not more popular than the first, but it turned out to be the opposite. It was held on March 12th, 2014 and it had the same basic concept as the first one ($5 cover, BYOB, 7:00 p.m.- 9:30 p.m., etc).
So why was this one not as well attended? I mean, it was well advertised, and everyone was raving about how much of a good time they had at the first one so it would only make sense that the second night is also a hit. In fact, this time around, there was even a video made of a compilation of the performances from the first night in the hopes of attracting more people to come. Here’s a link to the video:
In addition, the Facebook event had at least 45 people who confirmed that they were attending and at least a solid 10 people had signed up to perform. But when the night actually came around, only 2 of the people who signed up to sing showed up. Besides the small amount of people who were there, the rest of the night was overall successful. The people who did come to perform or enjoy the music ended up ordering a decent amount of food and were able to still having a great time in the end.
Once again, the majority of the people there were from Westminster Choir College. Although it’s definitely not a bad thing that Cafe 44 has the support of those students, it would be nice to see a little bit of a variety in the crowd. For the next open mic night in April, Cafe 44 is thinking about changing the event from a Wednesday night to a Thursday night in addition to advertising it on a broader spectrum with posters around the Princeton area as well as contact with Princeton University students.
On April 10th, 2014, Cafe 44 attempted to bounce back from the previous ill-attended open mic night in March, but their best efforts had no avail. This time around, Cafe 44 made posters to aid in the advertising for the event. The regular Facebook event was created and shared as well as a few online posts to local newspapers. The posters were put up around the Westminster Choir College campus, Princeton University campus, Cafe 44’s windows and door, as well as public places in town such as Small World and the bulletin board outside of the movie theater on Nassau Street.
In addition to the added advertisement, Cafe 44 moved open mic night from a Wednesday night to a Thursday night. Many of the Westminster students suggested the day change because of conflicting schedules with their night classes. So in order to achieve a larger crowd, Cafe 44 took the advice and tested it out to see if it would make any sort of difference.
Unlike the previous two open mic nights, Cafe 44 had some trivia games added to this night of fun. For the few who attended, the trivia seemed to be the highlight of the night. The winners of each round were given “Cafe Cash” that could be used on their next visit to the Cafe. Overall, I’d say that the people who missed out on this particular night, really missed out on a good time.
It appeared that even after all of these changes that Cafe 44 made, nothing seemed to draw the people back in like the way the opening night did. In the future, Cafe 44 plans to try to continue holding open mic nights for people to enjoy in the hopes that it can eventually turn into a well-known event. It is also my personal hope that more people come out and enjoy what Cafe 44 has to offer. There is nothing in Princeton quite like the sense of community at Cafe 44’s open mic night and if more people knew about it, I’m sure it would be a huge hit!