Coffeehouse Fever

Originally published on March 28, 2008

I love coffeehouses. I’m not talking about the kind where you plunk down $4.50 for a caramel-apple-pumpkin-spice cappuccino with extra whipped cream. I’m talking about the kind where music is the central focus, the small, intimate concert hall that offers up acoustic music, along with a cup of plain old coffee and some homemade cookies, to an attentive audience.

Usually housed in a quaint, old building, perhaps a community hall or a church dating back 100 years or more and seating 100 people or less, most coffeehouses on the Cape host concerts only once a month or so to showcase local talent or bring in well-known performers from elsewhere.

I’ve been to four or five coffeehouses in the area recently and have reviewed a couple of them for the Enterprise. I’ve been impressed with the dedication of the people who run these coffeehouses, their love of music, and their commitment to bringing good music to their communities. I have talked to the performers and found that many of them prefer to play at coffeehouses and similar venues, rather than in bars (where people aren’t really listening) and in large concert halls, where amplification is necessary and something is lost in the connection between the audience and performer.

Benefits to audience members are many. Coffeehouses offer a wide variety of music, from folk and fiddle to classical and jazz and all those undefinable new genres. You usually don’t have to travel far to find a coffeehouse. Locally, you’ll find them in Falmouth, Marstons Mills, Sandwich, Woods Hole, and elsewhere. All seats are close to the performer in a venue that holds only 50 to 100 people; you hear every note and you see the expressions on the faces of the players, giving you more of a connection to the performers than you might have in a larger hall. Finally, coffeehouses are friendly. You’ll probably see people you know or you’ll make new friends. You’ll probably get refreshments–coffee or tea, cookies, cake, or cheese and crackers. Some coffeehouses have seating arranged in standard rows; others have tables, so friends can gather around and so you’ll have somewhere to put your cup of coffee (or, sometimes, a bottle of wine).

If you haven’t attended a local coffeehouse, I encourage you to give one a try. If you have, please share your opinions and recommendations in the comments below. In future posts, I will share my reviews of various coffeehouses, and coffeehouse-like venues (even those actual coffee places that offer entertainment). For now, here’s a list of some venues you might want to check out:

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