I love coffee. And coffee shops. And little baby ducks. (Just kidding, but this all reminds me of the Tom T. Hall song so far.)
I really do think that coffee shops have huge value in a community. They make a community more vibrant. I believe that The Electric Brew is partially responsible for how downtown Goshen has gotten a lot more hip.
And for a time, the Brew was one of the few venues that made it easy to see a singer-songwriter. I remember seeing Chuck Brodsky there years ago, among others.
Bringing in a musician is a lot of work. I was thrilled to see Fred Eaglesmith at Constant Spring a few years ago, but even he joked about “a bar that’s too long with a pool table in the middle.” Owner Jason Oswald doesn’t bring in as many musicians as he once did, but the food is better. That’s a trade-off I’m happy to make.
• Not everyone there cares about the concert. The other night, Heather Kropf and Keith Hershberger gave a great show at the Brew. But there were at least two tables in the place that didn’t want to hear the musicians. So what? Well, when they laughed, I’m hearing them as an additional layer on top of the music when all I really want to hear is the music. Was the group of five at one table being rude? No, they just had a different reason for being at the Brew.
• There are too many distractions. Cue the espresso machine and the people walking to and fro to get coffee. I get that part of the reason a coffee shop has a concert is because it attract more business, but the business going on can be distracting. I can be like the dog in “Up” when someone yells “squirrel.” And admittedly, I brought a couple of Apple-made devices that could also be distractions, though I didn’t use them very much. So yes, I’m a bit of a hypocrite here.
A concert at a coffee shop pushes all those buttons for me.
The musicians have to work harder to commandeer everyone’s attention at a coffee shop. Pros like Kropf and Hershberger are used to it by now. I’m not.
I got to hear live music from some musicians I like Saturday night. But I didn’t like everything about the concert. If the Brew moves across the street, would it be different? I hope so. Maybe, just maybe, customers won’t have to walk between me and the musicians as they play and I try to listen.
On a side note, the coffee at the Brew has gotten really good. The roasting that owner Myron Bontrager is doing is pulling a lot of flavor out of the beans. They’re also brewing heftier pots of coffee than they once did. The coffee actually reminded me of the flavors I’ve had from cups at Intelligentsia in Chicago. There were high notes in the sips of coffee that surprised me. That makes me happy, but probably won’t drink many cups at concerts there.