If you brew it, they will come. So it seems at Indie Coffee, 1225 Regent Street, which has attracted a string of national acts since its opening in 2004.
"They call us," says J.J. Kilmer, owner and manager. "We haven't had to seek anybody out."
Kilmer, who owns the shop with her husband, has had an impressive list of, appropriately enough, indie bands come through. The most recent was Austin, Texas singer/songwriter Ramsay Midwood who performed his laid-back brand of rambling back-porch blues for an attentive and appreciative crowd on Tuesday night.
Drawing from his 2002 Vanguard release Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant and from last year's Popular Delusions & the Madness of Cows, Midwood plucked away at a classic 1958 Silvertone guitar while spinning tales of Jesus, dropping pants, and the ladies who got away. Or maybe he was the one who got away; it's hard to tell.
He did it all with a rough-around-the-edges charm and, usually, with his eyes closed.
Perhaps the most compelling idea of the night was the fact that Midwood was even in town at all. He's not currently on tour. As it turns out, he simply accepted the invitation to play a gig in LaSalle, Ill. and then travel up to Madison to play a little golf and sing a few songs.
Before and after the show Midwood talked about his previous Madison experiences, in the late '90s. These included characters called Trucker Tim and Sparrow, a guy named Al with translucent skin, Dollar Bill & The Bucks at Ken's Bar, Wild Hog In The Woods, and John Fabke's Pasture's of Plenty show on WORT.
As with most Indie Coffee events, there was no contract, no agents and no marketing scheme. It was just friends of friends spreading the word, arranging the show, and making it happen.
"Word gets around among touring bands as they talk to each other on the road," explains Kilmer. "Musicians tell us that we have a real nice vibe here."
The café serves sandwiches and has a full liquor license. By the end of a performance, a fishbowl of tip money floats over to the artists.
In the past few years Indie Coffee has also hosted numerous film events. Black Box Cinema, which shows student films, and a series called Gwen and Michelle's Garage Door Theatre, where 16mm silent films are shown to modern music, creating a spontaneous soundtrack, are semi-regular happenings. Gwen and Michelle are also the women responsible for bringing Midwood to town.
"We're real straightforward here," says Kilmer about her approach to booking events. "There are no agents, no representation. We're real indie, about as indie as you can get."