In reality it wasn't nearly so Rooney & Garland-esque, but we did extend an open invitation to local (near Bay Village, Ohio) musicians to grab 20 minute slots at what we were calling the Christmas Coffeehouse.
We had some standards...
- The scheduled acts had to distribute as many invitations as they could (10 per band member).
- There had to be food.
- The music had to be secondary to the conversation in the room, in other words not loud.
- It had to be late enough in December that the college crowd would be back in town for their winter break.
- It had to be free; it would be a gift to the community.*
We thought we'd be fortunate to get 50 people out to the event. 200 showed up. Not all at once, that would have been way too crowded.
This year, the sixth annual Christmas Coffeehouse takes place in Bay Village, OH on Sunday evening December 18th. I've turned down a speaking engagement to be there, as I mentioned previously. Each year's event has been better than the ones before. Even last year's Coffeehouse, which we had to hold on Saturday because our usual venue was booked on Sunday, drew a larger crowd than the previous year.
What it's like at the Bay Lodge during the Christmas Coffeehouse: People of every age, we're talking toddlers and all the way up, sitting close up on each other chatting, sharing coffee or tea or hot chocolate and maybe some cookies. They're seated at round tables but the room is so crowded that it's hard to tell to which table one belongs; at the Christmas Coffeehouse one belongs at all the tables. As acts get up and down, 'their' crowd shifts to the audience section at the front of the room, and then back again.
The first part of the evening is acoustic. After 9pm the amps get cranked up and the gloves come off.
We've had middle school bands and grammy nominated music producers perform on the same bill. We've listened to Feliz Navidad, Run Run Rudolph, and O Holy Night in the same set. We've had a lot of coffee and a lot of conversation and only a small amount of feedback from too hot microphones. Linus presented the gospel one year.
I have friends from Northeast Ohio that say it is their favorite event of the Christmas Season. I don't disagree, that's why I've gone back these last three years even after moving 400 miles away.
If you can make it to the westside suburbs of Cleveland by Sunday night, we'd love to have you join us. Click here for a google map to the event.
*The originators of the event still fund it out of their own pockets, sometimes resorting to printing the invitations individually in full color on our home computers. We do accept donations but have never charged admission. Once or twice we even covered our costs!