GREENBELT — While most of the performances during New Deal Café’s open mic night Thursday featured acoustic guitars and harmonicas, artists Robin Bowen and Ryan Willis approached the microphones with only a Macbook Pro and their voices.
The result was a soulful blend of R&B and trip-hop.
“I like being able to bring something different to the table,” Willis said.
Orion Wildflower, the name of the duo, performed two original songs off their newest album featuring Bowen’s vocals and Willis’ beats, much to the delight of the packed back room of the cafe.
“You have the voice of an angel,” said audience member Jan Kesler to Bowen after she stepped offstage.
The New Deal Café hosts an open mic night every Thursday. Anyone may sign up to perform regardless of experience or age—it is simply a first-come, first-serve basis. Each performer has the opportunity to play up to four songs.
“The variety and the quality of the music is all across the spectrum,” said Kevin Kesler, who has performed at the New Deal before. “But some of the performances tonight were really astoundingly good.”
The night’s acts largely consisted of men who sang and wielded acoustic guitars, but other instruments were also featured.
Greg Evans took the stage with a lap dulcimer, performing a John Pine song before switching to guitar. A woman, Alicia, sang a cappella soprano vocals from the musical theater canon.
James Riordan, who hosts open mic night every other Thursday along with his wife, Martha Heil, brought his daughter, Mary May, onstage to sing “Charlie on the M.T.A.”
“Poor Charlie!” the blond-haired toddler yelled into the microphone, flailing her arms wildly onstage to the beat of her dad’s guitar strumming.
“We’re raising her right,” Heil said when the audience cooed and cheered.
Anne Getz, who watched the performances, said the warm welcome from the audience is what makes the open mic performances so appealing to performers.
“It’s such a relaxed atmosphere,” she said. “People can perform and not feel scared.”
Jim Hintze and Rob Hallworth, who together make up the duo The Vinyl Frontier, were one of the first acts of the night performing 1970s soft rock classics like “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac and “New Kid in Town” by The Eagles.
“Everyone is accepting here,” Jan Kesler, from Burtonsville, said. “You can never pick a favorite.They were all great.”