Music with your magazine purchase at Urban Coffee

During the nineties we had a strange shadow cast over the city centres all over our green and pleasant land, the looming shape of Seattle Space Needle fell across England and in the dark sprang Grunge music and coffee shops.

Now this was not necessarily a bad thing with these coffee shops came some nice but rather un-English ideas, like friendly and knowledgeable customer service, the notion that not all meetings should end in someone going back to the office and being sick in a bin, and that good décor and a pleasant atmosphere should be standard rather than a unexpected fluke.

One of the things that these coffee houses also brought was the tepid and excruciating Open Mic Nights and its bastard cousin Slam Poetry. Yes, I am well aware that excruciating literally means ‘the pain Jesus felt on the cross’ hopefully by my using the word I am effectively communicating how I feel about the Open Mic night. If anything, compared to listening to some semi-feminist struggle through her four chords or some goateed dickhead trying to get away with rhyming ‘agony’ with ‘cup of tea’, I think Jesus got off lightly.

So you can imagine my trepidation at being invited to The Urban Coffee Company for a gig last Friday. Urban Coffee Company are an independent coffee shop in a sea of Starbucks and by virtue of its savvy internet presence and friendly staff has become a favourite of Birmingham’s mac-using social meeja types. Which, of course grinds my gears because I’m a Working Class Warrior with an aversion to Macs.

I have to admit I arrived late, which is always awkward, even more awkward because the band were positioned at the front by the staircase that leads to the toilets. Intruding on a flute solo to take a piss wasn’t the most comfortable way of making an entrance and was a little bit embarrassing going down the stairs. But coming back up felt fantastic, I had my own backing band to play me on like a chat show host.

I was worried that I would be walking into a nineties Seattle throw back open night but the presence of the booze, blues and relaxed atmosphere put me in mind more of the southern states of America when bars regularly have incidental live bands. The band Mojohooker were the epitome of this, not a destination band, but solid blues-rock, chop-earned pro’s with the skills to play the shit out of the classics and blow most hat wearing indy Dougherty wannabes into a smack coma.

The place looked good, worn, lived-in, tables softened by candle light and wine, blackboards and fairy lights like a naughty but middle-class youth club. There was a good mix of people, which I think will be the success of the event due every Friday, from the laptop coders to the after work suits and easily enough atmosphere to pry the wine-drinkers from the achingly expensive bistro bars that stud the area like sweetcorn in shit.

I would recommend the night as a good pre-date venue, somewhere to go that shows of your intimate knowledge of cool places, has free entry and sells booze. Also for anyone that wants to draw out the summer vibe, relaxing into the weekend as the sun sets.

And, you can also pick up a copy of Dirty Bristow to hide behind, should your date run off with a be-trainered Internet guru.


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