Grooving to the tunes

Lyssa Beyer

Low lighting and the strong smell of coffee are not the only things that coffee houses around Eau Claire have to offer.

Sandy Hartmann, general manager of the Acoustic Cafe, 505 S. Barstow St., said the coffee house music scene has grown in popularity because it offers something different than the average college bar scene. She said newer acts are coming forth and are giving them an opportunity to show off their talents in an comfortable setting.

More Amore, composed of singer-songwriter Adam Thoms, has played the coffee house music scene for about two years. The local artist has played guitar for about seven years and plays piano, trumpet, violin and sings.

“One of my first memories of being a little boy was going to church with my mom. She played piano in church and I loved it and it was so fun to listen to her practice and then go to church and play for the whole congregation,” Thoms said.

Thoms’ influences include the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Elvis Costello, but he said he tries to play all kinds of music.

“I play everything as a songwriter, I try to be versatile,” he said. “I want to secure the longevity of my musical career so I try not to limit myself to anything, I try to jam with anyone that wants to jam at all.”

He said the best part about performing, as well as songwriting, is when people can relate to the words.

“Its like life patting you on the back, its amazing,” Thoms said. “It’s the best feeling ever, to look out and see people singing along.”

Anna and Sarah is another act that has taken advantage of the coffee house music scene. Sophomore Anna Johnson and guitar partner Sarah Jade met in high school and have been playing together for about three years.

Johnson said their sound can be described as modern folk but both bring in diverse styles of music.

“We both have different writing styles or musical backgrounds so we kind of bring them together to make Anna and Sarah,” Johnson said.

Jade’s influences include Billy Joel, 80s music and alternative rock, while Johnson’s influences include Allison Krause and Irish folk music. Jade said their common ground is Brandi Carlile.

Anna and Sarah have been playing in coffee houses for about two years. Johnson said the relaxed atmosphere provides a perfect setting for their music.

“We feel really real and comfortable up there because people who go to coffee shops to hang out are there because its kind of an escape,” Johnson said. “Our music is so much about lyrics and stories and things its really nice to have an intimate setting.”

Jade agrees.

“We’re really real and raw up there, just ourselves,” she said. “We want to get that feeling from everyone else to, they come for coffee and music.its very one on one.”

Charles Morgan, a local musician, has played the coffee house music scene for about eight months.

He said he classifies his sound as alternative acoustic grunge. His musical influences include Nirvana and anything from Under Oath to TV on the Radio.

“Music shapes the way people are … if you’re into a certain kind of music that’s the way you’re going to be . music is life,” Morgan said. “I do plan on pursuing music as much as I can regardless of playing, producing or whatever, just the business in general.”

Last summer he recorded his E.P. “A Symphony from Psychosis” with producers John LeCompt, former guitarist of Evanescence and Phil Tayler, former lead singer of Future Leaders of the World, at Redrum studio in Little Rock, Ark.

He first began performing in coffee houses after seeing a flyer for an open mic night at Starbucks, 2016 S. Hastings Way. Soon he made his way around to other coffee houses in the area including Starbucks, 953 W. Clairemont Ave. and The Goat, 408 Water St.

“Performing is the best, the best emotional outlet for me anyway,” Morgan said. “Getting on stage and being able to act the way I want to act with a guitar in my hands lets me be emotional because I am not a dramatic person at all . I don’t like to be involved with emotions, so I can save that for the stage and let that all out.”

Kyle and Savannah, a local acoustic group, have also hit up local coffee shops as a venue to showcase their music. Kyle Culver and Savannah Smith met in sixth period study hall at North High School, 2700 Mercury Ave., last fall.

The duo has played in coffee houses since last December. Culver’s musical influences include John Mayer and Bon Iver while Smith’s influences include Johnnie Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls.

Culver said their sound is influenced by a variety of different kinds of music.

“I think every song has its own genre, a couple of songs are folk songs and a couple of them are indie or alternative,” Culver said.

Kyle and Savannah said the music they make is a reflection on them selves.

“It’s for ourselves, to express ourselves, a way to get things out that have been wearing at you inside and also for the crowd . watching them listen to our music has a huge impact on us,” Smith said.

“The music that we collaborate on is a huge extension of my personality and I think it’s a huge escape, just to get away from everything,” Culver said.

The coffee house music scene continues to grow for a variety of reasons.

“I think Eau Claire is just growing in general and with everything, not only coffee shops, not only music, not only art, its just culture in general that is coming from bigger cities,” Morgan said.

Thoms said the lack of an all ages venue and the need for more places to perform in Eau Claire attributes to the continuing popularity.

Freshman Teia Larson has been attending shows at coffee shops since the start of the school year.

“I like the atmosphere and it is a good way to get off campus,” she said. “Just a way to enjoy music and do homework . and I love music.”