Friday, May 16, 2008

The New New Riverside Cafe

After enjoying a lovely warm afternoon planting herbs (yes, legal ones) and cleaning out my flower beds, I drove over to the West Bank of Minneapolis last night to the new Acadia Cafe. Now located at the corner of Cedar & Riverside, it is at the site of the old New Riverside Cafe. I started this then, listening to Moses Murray and Lightnin' Joe Peterson play (I couldn't finish because the Wi-Fi connection was so weak)....

Now the original Acadia was located just south of downtown in my old neighborhood of Steven's Square, which when I lived there, was in dire need of a place like the Acadia. It was a nice neighborhood coffee shop, serving tasty sandwiches and a very wide selection of tap and bottled beer. Adjoining the shop, there was a little theater, where they presented music (all original songs--partly due to spurring local creativity but mostly because they don't pay their ASCAP/BMI fees), comedy and theater. Although the sound was sometimes funky, the room had a nice cozy listening room vibe, and I enjoyed performing and seeing shows there. And there was always plenty of parking.

A couple months ago the Acadia Cafe moved to the happening West Bank, which is home to the KFAI studios and a wide selection of bars and music venues like 400 Bar, the Cedar Cultural Center, Nomad World Pub, the Triple Rock Social Club and the legendary but now defunct Viking Bar (which Matt will remember from one of his trips out to Minneapolis). I have mixed feelings about this move.

On the one hand, it's great to have them living next to hip venues in a neighborhood with lots of walk-by traffic. It's on the light rail line, in the backyard of Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota and in the nexus of my musical life. It's also great to see a music venue back in the exact space where the New Riverside Cafe brought West Bank legends to the stage (i.e. Spider John Koerner, Dakota Dave Hull, Peter Ostroushko). The interior looks and feels nice with red walls, good lighting, a long bar and plenty of booths and tables. Situated on the block's corner, it has windows the whole length of the cafe, allowing the performers to do their own advertising. This brings us to an interesting change in the new revised Acadia...the stage is in the room with the cafe, not it in its own little theater. This works fine for musical acts, as they can pack in more people and possibly get the accidental audience member who just came in for a beer or to catch up on their work (like the blog that they've been woefully remiss in posting to!). I'm not sure what it does to the other kinds of acts the Acadia used to present--poetry, comedy, theater. From what I can tell, they're focusing on the music, which kind of bums me out since there are plenty of bars and coffee shops in town that bring in music but very few small spaces in the Twin Cities that present this other kind of performance art.

When the new Acadia first opened and I was peering into the windows to scope out the new space, I was worried about the tall ceilings, hard floors and odd shape of the room, fearing it would hurt the sound, especially for acoustic artists. But I was pleasantly surprised when I was there for my friend Jaspar Lepak's CD release concert at the end of April. It was packed that night and yet I could hear everything quite well, even in the back of the room. I opened the show, and I can say that the sound on stage was as good as off, way better than at the old theater. Maybe that was a fluke, though, since last night was not such a happy sound situation...I guess the jury's out as to whether the new revised Acadia's sound has been improved.

Other problems include limited parking, a cover required in the evenings (even if you're just coming for a drink), spotty service and worst of all, no espresso machine. And when I asked for a regular coffee, their carafe was out so they had to get another pot of drip going. Not a happy situation...what is a coffee shop without real coffee?

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