For the past 13 years, musicians and performers of all walks of life have tuned up their instruments and voices in front of an appreciative audience in Coldstream.
The monthly Coldstream Coffee House is a true success story, with its packed houses of appreciate audiences who have gathered to support both seasoned and new performers.
Some of those novice performers have gone on to do quite well for themselves, says Keith Hustler, himself a musician who plays in local folk-roots trio Steel Wound and is a member of the not-for-profit Coldstream Live Music Society, which puts on the coffee house.
However, with the popularity of the event, the coffee house has literally outgrown its home at the Coldstream Women’s Institute Hall.
Although the coffee house will continue under its Coldstream moniker, the event is moving to bigger digs – in Vernon – at the Powerhouse Theatre.
“The community of Coldstream has been good to us, but we ran out of space at the hall,” said Hustler. “This is not a ticketed event, which can be expensive. It has always been a walk-up event for performers and audiences. We don’t want to get too formal.”
“There was only one show in the past two seasons where we didn’t turn people away at the door,” added Kerry Parks, Hustler’s bandmate in Steel Wound, who is also a member of the Coldstream Live Music Society.
The men say the coffee house will run in the same format, with a feature performer delivering a set of music and an open mic open to those experienced and aspiring artists.
“Sometimes we get too many that want to get up on the stage. If they are coming from a long way away, by default they will get on,” said Hustler.
The coffee house isn’t exactly amateur hour for the latest garage band or circus act, he added.
“It’s a self-regulating kind of thing. We try to be consistent up front. We encourage people to come out, drop in and play, even if they haven’t played before… (However,) we are an acoustic venue. There are not a lot of juggling acts,” said Hustler.
“For many, this is not the first open mic they have ever played. It’s a great opportunity once you have played a few coffee houses and open mics. It gives you the opportunity to get out in front of an audience in a professional setting. It’s a progressive venue,” added Parks.
The open mic portion of the coffee house has seen every kind of act from spoken word and classical piano to a children’s choir and Peruvian music.
“One of our strengths has been the standard of expectation. This is not a jam. The audience knows what it’s going to get,” said Hustler.
“The audience expects a certain kind of show. We get a lot of regulars,” added Parks.
Also, unlike a jam in say a bar or club, the coffee house is family friendly and open to young performers.
“It’s satisfying to see young kids get up and perform. It’s a great opportunity to put them in front of a live audience. We have watched a number of young people from their first-time out to going professional,” said Hustler, citing the Shuswap’s Jesse Mast and W.L. Seaton Secondary student Julia Thompson as two young artists who have gone on to do well for themselves.
“We offer a professional environment with professional equipment for them to perform on. You are not going to get that anywhere else.”
Moving to the 220-plus soft-seat Powerhouse Theatre, home to Vernon’s community theatre, will increase that professionalism with sound and lighting.
“We are really happy with the venue,” said Hustler.
The Coldstream Coffee House will continue on the third Saturday of every month (with some scheduling changes to allow for Powerhouse Theatre’s presenting season), with the open mic portion of the evening preceding the feature performance.
“Our feature act has evolved as the coffee house started as an open mic,” said Parks. “We can now advertise who our feature act is going to be and it allows us to attract professional and semi-professional artists. Some of them have performed in the open mic before being the feature act.”
“They used to be paid from a 50/50 draw and now we can pay them a little bit more,” added Hustler.
The Coldstream Live Music Society has also provided a monetary scholarship to a Vernon Community Music School student the past few years.
The first feature act of the 2015-16 Coldstream Coffee House season will feature local female acoustic ensemble Sorella, who will take the stage at Powerhouse Theatre Sept. 19. Admission will remain at $5 per person to keep the coffee house accessible to families, said Hustler.
The cash concession, offering treats and refreshments, will also continue.