If it's Wednesday night in Wantagh, you can be sure The Cup runneth over with musicians. Ever since the popular coffeehouse opened nearly 18 years ago, Wednesday has been open-mic night, where guitarists, stand-ups and other budding entertainers get their 15 minutes of fame by performing for the mostly 20-something crowd.
"Most of our clientele is high school kids and college kids," says Chelsea Sweeney, the owner's daughter, who runs the show on Wednesday nights. "It usually goes till about 12, and we have musicians, comics, people who do slam poetry."
Sign in, please
Though the show doesn't begin until 9, performers usually start signing up about 8, after which they'll take the stage on a first-come, first-served basis. "They have 10 to 15 minutes, and if they're a musician, they get three songs," Sweeney says.
Cup regular E.E. Daniels, who covers songs by groups such as Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles, always makes sure he gets the No. 1 spot on the bill, right after the night's master of ceremonies Dan "Graz" Graziano.
"I like to open the show," says Daniels, a telemarketer from Levittown. "I'm exciting, I'm spontaneous, and there's always a full house in the beginning. I like to get them warmed up."
At 58, he's a bit older than the usual performer at The Cup, but all ages are welcome. "I like the audience here. They're not drinkers, and they're attentive, which is important," he says.
High school teacher Nico Padden agrees. The 25-year-old, who plays guitars and sings her own brand of folky, Alanis Morissette-ish compositions, also likes the vibe and the support of The Cup crowd. "It's not loud here. You get a lot of people who actually hear you, as opposed to singing in a bar," she says. "It's a very mellow crowd."
Playing by the rules
Though musical acts are welcome to sing the blues, as a rule, performers - especially comics - aren't allowed to work blue. "We had one comic who was doing these sexual things, and we have kids in here, so he had to get him off the stage," Sweeney says. "We don't do anything too provocative. Some of the slam poetry has curses in it, and we'll let one or two get by. Otherwise, we don't have too many guidelines."
Another perk to playing The Cup is the friendly vibe that defines its open-mic night. On the couch, eagerly waiting to make their debut at The Cup, are best buds David Lypsky, 22, of Jericho, and Anish Masand, 20, of Brookville, who have come, respectively, with saxophone and guitar and some pals to cheer them on.
Over at the counter, first-timer Ben Kutner, 18, of Rockville Centre, who describes his original folk songs as "very poetic stuff," and Mike Plona, 21, of Seaford, who started coming to The Cup in 2008, have struck a chord after meeting just five minutes earlier. "You make friends here. It's very coffeehouse," Plona says. "I started writing songs when I was about 16, 17 or so. This is a good place to meet new people and sell my songs."
Where: 3268 Railroad Ave., Wantagh, 516-826-9533, thecupcoffeehouse.com
When: Open mic starts at 9 p.m., but sign-up begins around 8
Other open-mic nights
If you like mic, here are some other popular spots that host open-mic nights:
Where: 1010 Park Blvd., Massapequa Park, 516-798-2196
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursdays
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursdays
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays (sign-up starts at 7 p.m.)