Monday, October 6, 2008

Performers Sparkle at First Friday Coffeehouse in Bemidji

by Maggie Montgomery

The Northwoods Folk Collective’s First Friday Coffeehouse is back, in a new location at the Mask and Rose Theater in the Masonic Temple across from the Bemidji Community Arts Center on Bemidji Avenue. Last Friday October 3rd was the second coffeehouse of the season.

The new space is a strange mix of art, theater and freemasonry, but somehow it all comes together to feel warm and welcoming. Two rows of chairs covered in red velveteen—with some larger chairs in the center of each row (are they thrones?)—line the sides of the main hall. Some coffeehouse attendees sit in these soft seats. Others prefer the folding chairs directly in front of the small stage. Individuals pay a $2 admission; $5 for families. The Folk Collective splits the fee with the Mask and Rose Theater in return for use of the space.

Drew Warne-Jacobsen provides the sound system. He offers the performers videos of their performances for a small fee. The acts last Friday included poetry and prose with a large dose of music. Some performers traveled from as far away as Longville and International Falls. Their ages varied widely.

One of the strengths of the Folk Collective Coffeehouses is that audiences and performers come together in a respectful space. Performing at the First Friday Coffeehouse isn’t like seeing an act in a bar. People really listen! Last Friday night even the most experienced performers seemed a little unnerved by the audience’s attentiveness.

Dennis Montgomery has been the master of ceremonies for the first two coffeehouses. He’s in charge of musician sign-up (at 6:30 on coffeehouse night). “People have various theories about how to assign performance times. I just think about what goes together; what will flow for the audience.”
Here is a link to photos of the performers and an art show upstairs from the open stage. The next Northwoods Folk Collective First Friday Coffeehouse is November 7th. The music starts at 7:30.

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