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Monday, April 13, 2015
Smooth & Mellow: Behind the Times at Cafe 1923
Perfect Merch for a Coffee Shop Gig!
With the last damp, dreary days of March in the rear-view mirror, I was in search of something fun to do with my 12 year old daughter on a dismal, gray Saturday afternoon; something laid back yet intellectually stimulating; something awesomely complex in its simplicity; and something family friendly but not just for kids. I found all of this--and more--at Behind the Times' weekly gig at the Cafe 1923 Coffee Shop in Hamtramck. I've been meaning to catch this quirky, old-timey trio since I saw them open a show at the Old Miami last fall and can't believe I waited so long, as they were even better than I remembered! You definitely owe it to yourself to catch one of these shows.
Live, Local Music at its' Best
According to their website, this quaint little coffee shop has been in the same family for over four generations. It's definitely got that Hamtramck "jam it is where ever it fits and park on the street" vibe to it. However, stepping through the door instantly takes you back to simpler times, where people dropped by local establishments to sit and gab, catch up with friends, or share some local gossip. They serve and excellent cup of coffee here and I recommend it over all the fancy-schmancy espresso drinks you see everywhere today (although they'll happily make those for you too). My daughter had a wonderful fruit smoothy for lunch and the sandwiches being prepared behind the counter looked amazing (and amazingly inexpensive to boot!). There were just enough tables to sit and eat, lots of free local and national newspapers, and plenty of quiet nooks and crannies for reading, quiet conversation or just relaxing. Look around, there's plenty to see--great early 20th century architecture with the requisite and outrageous hand-carved wood trim; artwork from various local artists adorns the walls; posters and flyers are stuck up advertising great local events; and watch the people as they come through the door and are warmly welcomed by someone there. There is an intense feeling of "home" at the Cafe 1923 that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
Gigantic Talent in a Tiny Window
Almost every Saturday from 3:00pm to 5:00pm, the three members of Behind the Times (who live locally) set up shop in the tiny corner window stage and entertain the patrons with a few hours of fiddle tunes, classic bluegrass standards and even old-timey arrangements of more contemporary songs. I particularly love their take on the Little Feat classic "Dixie Chicken" and the way they can transition from a straight bluegrass instrumental with the mando chop on the "2 and 4" into a mellow reggae-infused tune. The blend of Benjamin Teague on Mandolin, Rachel Pearson on fiddle and Ben Luttermoser on Guitar is well suited to this style, and perfect for the small venue--adding a banjo or a bass would be too much for this small, acoustically warm room. As it is, the three play very well together, making sure the crowd can hear every note from every instrument. It's just loud enough that everyone can hear the music, but still carry on a quiet conversation. The members of the band equally versed at singing lead and well-rehearsed harmony parts appropriate to the song. Likewise, all three are adept switching between melody and rhythm lines so smoothly that you would swear you are listening to a five or six-piece band. Individually, it's hard to find anything wrong with the tone from Teague's well-worn Gibson A4 Mandolin, Luttermoser's driving rhythm guitar and Pearson's rich, full fiddle fills--it is patently obvious that they are all remarkable talented, and spend a lot of time working on their skills. Go see Behind the Times at Cafe 1923 and thank me later. A picture says so much more than all the words on this page, so I'll include some more below. Enjoy! Please feel free to share, tag and link here at will (and follow SemiBluegrass on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more live, local music)