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Best Of Show

Trust me, his heart is in the right place

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When I first read “Best Of Show” on the press release for Mocha Moo’s $1,500 singer-songwriter competition, I had visions of a mockumentary love child mothered by “A Mighty Wind” and fathered by Christopher Guest’s other blockbuster, “Best in Show.” I guess you’d call it “Bestie Junior” (insert laugh track).

But knowing Mocho Moo owners Jay and Gwen Inokuchi as well as I do, that idea was soon quashed. While those movies poke fun at their subjects, these two never do. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who respects and nurtures local musicians the way the Inokuchis do.

I spoke to Jay Inokuchi recently about his Best Of Show competition that begins Friday, Feb. 1, and he told me that his goal is to attract the very best singer-songwriters — people who may have stayed away in the past because they think that open mics are primarily for beginners.

“I wanted to have something that featured the best singer-songwriters in the Pacific Northwest,” explains Inokuchi. “We don’t really have a platform to showcase our artists. These artists will get a lot of exposure.

“Although I support the beginning artists,” he continues, “I want the seasoned musicians to feel this is a place to showcase their new material and meet new people too.”

Inokuchi mentioned Eddie’s Attic in Georgia as his inspiration. He said John Mayer and other big names such as Shawn Mullins and Sugarland played there before they became big stars. He said he would like Mocha Moo to become the West Coast equivalent to Eddie’s Attic.

“I really want to motivate people to keep growing and grow the music scene,” says Inokuchi. “I see it as a positive for our area.”

The Inokuchis never let the bottom line affect the music. In addition to being a popular music venue that never charges a cover nor pressures musicians to bring fans, Mocha Moo is also a coffee shop and deli.

“Although I like revenue, more than revenue I like music,” explains Inokuchi. “Fortunately the business is doing well, so it’s supporting it. We want every single singer-songwriter to feel we are welcoming them and encouraging them.”

Another way he helps them is by videotaping the open mic every Friday and giving away copies on CD the following Friday free of charge. This enables artists to watch and critique their own performances, which Inokuchi says is a great learning tool for them.

Here’s how the Best Of Show competition works.

Sign-up is at 6 p.m. Open mic runs from 7 p.m. to midnight. Participation is free.

Each week Inokuchi will select two judges who will be asked to observe all performances at the Friday night open mic. Without conferring with each other, each judge will select one performance he feels is the best of the night based on criteria given by Inokuchi. Inokuchi says that since he started the open mic he has noticed that there is usually one very clear choice for best performance each night, but if the two judges come up with a different person he will serve as the tiebreaker.

Each weekly winner will receive $40 cash, a picture on the Mocha Moo Wall of Fame, a movie clip of his performance featured on the Mocha Moo MySpace page for one week, and a chance to compete in the finals in August.

The winner of the finals in August will be crowned “Singer/Songwriter of the Year” at Mocha Moo’s music festival, Moozeke Ultraminifest. He will also receive $1,500 cash, and his song will be placed as first on next year’s Mocha Moo Ultraminifest compilation CD.

For a complete list of rules, visit

“Best Of Show” awards will be given every Friday between Feb. 1 and Aug. 1.

[Mocha Moo, “Best Of Show,” Friday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m., no cover, 3810 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood, 253.584.1565]

My name is Angie and I’m just a shot away — If you can’t rock me, somebody will.

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