Mixing It Up: The St. James Coffee Concert Series
by Chelsea Cliff
March 13, 2017
Brian Green, St. James Coffee's Executive Director.
Where do you get Rock, Folk, Irish, Contemporary, and Jazz music in one place, with no cover charge? At St. James Coffee, a local non-profit, faith-based coffee shop in Rochester, MN!
Every Saturday night guests enjoy free live music from 7-9 pm as part of St. James’ newly founded Concert Series. Sterling State Bank is excited to be involved with this organization as a sponsoring partner. As a community bank, we’re happy to promote local musicians and local music. Recently I sat down with St. James Coffee’s Executive Director, Brian Green to learn more about how this event was created and how it’s making an impact.
“I wanted to start finding new ways to give back beyond coffee,” Brian explains, “music is a powerful connector to people from all walks of life. Free live music is a great way to give back.” Brian’s goal is to have a show every Saturday night for the foreseeable future, with concerts divided into quarterly schedules: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The first show was September 24, 2016. Light45, a Christian Rock band that is gaining fame in the Christian music industry, opened the series with an outdoor show.
“It was pretty memorable because it was completely new for us, and being that it was outside…that was another challenge, it was supposed to rain that week. Everyone wanted to move it inside but I waited until the last minute and the show went on as planned! Just as the band was finishing up, packing the last instrument into their trailer, it began raining. That timing was divine intervention,” Brian exclaimed.
Brian also expressed that they want the music to continue to be as diverse as possible, which is why concert goers will see a mix of genres showcased in each series. But some elements will be consistent, with Light45 scheduled to open each concert series. “They are incredible musicians and good people,” says Brian. “They are just wonderful to work with. We want musicians to play as many of their original songs as possible – not just covers. Not every venue is as supportive, in that regard.”
There were 13 shows as part of the Fall 2016 series and so far 10 shows for the Winter 2017 series, with 2 remaining. Bands showcased include: Light45, Parks & Kleist, The D’Sievers, Amanda Grace, Root River Jam, Trevor Marty, Tim & Janis, Good Morning Bedlam, The Ravensfire Band, College Show, Remi Moulder, Hair of the Dog, The OK Factor, Debbie Anthony, Morning Barrel, Darren Saner & The Larry Price Trio, LP & the 45’s, License to Live, and TakeTwo.
On March 4, the LP & the 45’s had the most attended indoor show yet, with about 90 people in the coffee house, people were dancing and it was packed! While most shows average around 60 fans the crowd size varies at each show. “Our hope is to have as many outdoor shows as we can when the weather permits it – it’s a lot to pull off being volunteer run. And some bands have a volume better suited for being outside and catering to a large crowd, like License to Live, LP & the 45’s, and Light45.”
Brian began his journey with St. James about a year and a half ago, first as a board member and then as the Executive Director. During his time with the organization, he has initiated a number of new projects, including the Concert Series, the Give a Latte program and revamping some of the products on the menu.
“We updated our coffee product and started sourcing our coffee from a small batch roaster in St. Paul with direct trade beans. We have improved our seasonal rotation of coffee, coffee is a cherry and like other fruits, it has different types that are better during certain times of the year.”
Speaking of coffee, Brian says his favorite drink at St. James Coffee is the iced vanilla latte, a popular choice based on the volume they sell! And musically speaking, his favorite band of all time is Meatloaf, which he discovered in 7th grade. If forced to select a favorite Concert Series act so far, he would have to say Light45. Other notable memories of the concert series include flooding the back room (when a volunteer got distracted after running the sink to do dishes), blowing a fuse (the band kept playing), and a visit from local law enforcement (reportedly responding to a noise complaint!). While there have been some ups and downs along the way, these shows are a lot of fun and offer a unique, local experience to many in the community.
“This is a relaxing, fun atmosphere that is kid-friendly with great drinks,” says Brian. “We try to bring in new talent, giving people the opportunity to hear new music and learn more about St. James.”
There are just 2 shows left in the Winter 2017 Concert Series. The group TakeTwo will be playing March 18 followed by the group Hair of the Dog on March 25. St. James Coffee customers can also order the featured drink specials, sponsored by Sterling State Bank, between March 11 and March 24, 2017. Additionally, Sterling State Bank was the sponsor of Amanda Grace’s recent concert.
“Our community, the people, our volunteers, and our customers are what I enjoy most about St. James Coffee. You can be having a bad day out in the world and walk in here – it turns the day around! I’m blessed with the opportunity to work with some incredible people,” Brian enthusiastically concludes.