Photos By Franz Mahr, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
D.C. doesn’t have enough photo booths. Old school photo booths. The kind with one stool that prints black and white strips of four photos. The Songbyrd Record Cafe, finally open at 2477 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan, does not have a photobooth. They have something that might be more appealing than an old school photo booth. They have a Voice-O-Graph.
The Voice-O-Graph (recently brought to the music lovers attention thanks to a Jack White owned machine used to record a Neil Young album) is what will set this cafe/record store/hang out space apart. It can and will most likely be viewed as gimmicky and cool and stupid and retro-for-the-sake-of-being-retro and pointless and needed. It’s all those things. Inevitably a local band or label will cut an album on it. They should. For $15 anyone can have whatever sound they emit into a microphone for 3 minutes and 10 seconds pressed onto a 7 inch piece of vinyl with some lovely packaging. It’s so cool. I’m in the camp that thinks it’s cool.
Songbyrd didn’t rehab a space simply to have people record on an old machine. Owners Alisha Edmonson and Joe Lapan wanted and have created a space for music fans to congregate. Movie fans have movie theaters but music fans didn’t have a record cafe, at least not in D.C. Modeled after similar spaces in London, the record cafe will be the middle ground between coffee shop and record store. They’re not trying to be Tryst or Crooked Beat (or Smash! or Red Onion, two more record stores located down the street), but a place that people who like Tryst or Crooked Beat might want to meet.
A mixture of new and used vinyl will be on sale. A healthy amount of hip-hop and indie rock will be joined by whatever customers demand. A suggestion sheet is located in one of the shelves. Due to the limited space, the inventory will be consistently rotating.
If you’re unsure of your vinyl purchase, anyone is welcome to listen to their current inventory on one of four iPad listening stations.
Edmonson and Lapan have done an excellent job furnishing and decorating the sunny space. From the globe lamp to the circular re-purposed street lamps, Songbyrd has a homey and comfortable feel.
Songbyrd Record Cafe is currently open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 10 a.m to 10 p.m. Check back soon for a TASTE TEST.