Princeton venue also hosts acoustic musicians
If you’re a fan of the American folk tradition or enjoy the smooth sounds of acoustic music, seeing a show at the Princeton Coffeehouse might be something you’ll want to do this spring before the series wraps up its 2017-18 season.
For over 20 years, the intimate venue has attracted some of the best singer-songwriters and acoustic musicians from all over the country and parts of Canada.
During the Coffeehouse season, music enthusiasts can pay a fair price to watch some of America’s best talent play live in downtown Princeton.
How it all got started
The original founders of the Princeton Coffeehouse were Deb Borys, Harry and Maggie Clucas, Dana Collins, Ron McCutchan, Debbie and Jerome Puetz, Lynn and Rick Reha, Dave Salmon and Tim Spacek. The first show was held in June 1993 at the Anne Thomas Gallery, which is known today as Sundance Gallery.
Admission for the first concert was $3. It featured Diane Ippel, playing hammered dulcimer, and Robert Williams, playing melodeon and concertina.
Concerts were held monthly until November 1994, when the venue was moved to the basement fellowship room at Hampshire Colony Church.
By early 2002, Rick Reha, who spearheaded much of the work that went into hosting the shows, had grown weary of the task and the series was discontinued.
A year later, however, Paul Kautz and Steve Gunning contacted Reha about continuing the show. He agreed to do a hand-off.
Bill Beneke, who helps to coordinate shows today, was then approached and asked if he’d have any interest “breathing new life” into the series. After some thought, he agreed and worked with Gunning and Kautz, in revival of Princeton Coffeehouse.
The first show of the new series was held April 23, 2003, and featured Dave Moore, the singer-songwriter and harmonica player-extraordinaire from Iowa City.
In the spring of 2005, Hampshire Colony Church was in a bit of turmoil with members of the congregation, and organizers of the Princeton Coffeehouse thought it would be best to move its venue to another location. It gladly accepted an invitation from Open Prairie United Church of Christ, located on Marion Street. Open Prairie has remained home to the Coffeehouse series since 2005.
Notable artists who have played at Coffeehouse
• The late Jack Hardy, influential songwriter and founding editor of Fast Folk Musical Magazine, has appeared twice.
• Andrew Calhoun, the founder of Waterbug records, has performed multiple times.
• Geoff Muldaur, of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, has been at the Coffeehouse twice. Interesting fact about Muldaur: He was playing at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965 on the same night Bob Dylan shocked the folk world by “going electric.”
• Two-time Grammy nominee Bill Morrissey played just a couple of years prior to his death in 2011.
• Noteworthy guitarists include Dakota Dave Hull, Adrian Legg and Joel Mabus.
• Notable Canadian artists include Sarah MacDougall, Scott Cook, Garnet Rogers (brother of the legendary Stan Rogers), Rose Cousins and Amelia Curran.
• Well-known acoustic blues guitarists include Roy Book Binder, Catfish Keith, Andy Cohen, the Rev. Robert B. Jones Sr., Tom Feldmann, Charlie Parr and Paul Geremia.
• Other luminaries include Sam Baker, Malcolm Holcombe, Tracy Grammer, Jeffrey Foucault, Gurf Morlix, Mary McCaslin, Peter Mulvey, Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche and Kris Delmhorst.
Seeing a show at Princeton Coffeehouse
A typical night at the Coffeehouse features a solo performer. However, each season, the venue will host a few larger groups, such as the popular, Sons of the Never Wrong and The Birds of Chicago.
Each season consists of about nine or 10 shows, which are typically held on the fourth Saturday of the month. Seasons run from September to April.
Admission is anywhere between $15 to $20, depending on the performer. Tickets can be reserved ahead of time by calling Beneke at 815-878-4805 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The schedule of upcoming performances can be found online at theprincetoncoffeehouse.com. The 2017-18 season is wrapping up, but there are two shows left to see. Peter Case will perform April 28, and Eliza Gilkyson will appear May 19.
The hands that make Princeton Coffeehouse possible
The work is done entirely by volunteers. Aside from the coordinating efforts of Beneke, Gunning and Kautz, Sarah Cooper, McCutchan (one of the founders), Larry Smith, Chris Smith, Frank Bouxsein, Bill Bouxsein, Julia McCutchan, Jon McCutchan, Larry Lawson, Deb Lawson and Mary Sue Goldsmith are all involved in the success of the shows.
Kathy Cartwright and Julia McCutchan are also among many who regularly donate desserts to help raise money for the series. And within the past year, Jim Van Fleet and Paul Johnson have served as sound technicians.