Coffee Gallery Backstage (Photo - coffeegallery.com) and Big Mama's Rib Shack (Photo - visitpasadena.com).

      Coffee Gallery Backstage (Photo – coffeegallery.com) and Big Mama’s Rib Shack (Photo – visitpasadena.com).

      Coffee Gallery (Storytelling).

      If there is anyone in Pasadena/Altadena who doesn’t know about the Coffee Gallery and its prolific, unique, and intimate performance space in the back, you need to know and experience it.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      Ty Fance presents Storytellers

      Ty Fance presents Storytellers

      The coffee shop itself serves an extensive menu of coffee variations as well as pastries, breakfast, lunch, and ice cream, with the usual gathering of neighbors chatting or using the Wi-Fi.  But snake your way to the back on a show night (or show morning or afternoon sometimes) and you will be amazed and delighted by everything from Celtic folk to a speakeasy jazz revue to country to pop to singer-songwriters to tribute bands to real cowboy music to magic to…………storytelling!

      And storytelling is what got me over there last Saturday.  Ty Fance brought his show “Off My Head,” a revolving collection of storytellers, including himself and 4-5 others, to weave tales of personal learning and growing experiences, poignant insights into parenthood, wild and crazy travel stories, fateful meetings and unexpected connections with personal heroes, heart-warming (and sometimes heart-wrenching) family tales, humorous stories that might have gone completely out of control (in a bad way) but instead were out of control (in a good way) and hilarious to the audience because of the storyteller’s perspective.

      I’ve seen the show several times, always a variety of stories and always highly entertaining, an afternoon or evening well spent and inspiring.  If you blog or keep a journal, or just like entertaining your friends with your insights on Facebook or in person, you’ll be energized to get creative with your storytelling.  And who knows? We might see you up on the stage next time!  I highly recommend that you check out the Coffee Gallery soon, for the storytelling as well as the myriad other entertainment options.  You won’t be disappointed.  So grab your iced coffee if it’s still in the 90’s, a scoop of black raspberry sorbet or something gooey and chocolatey, settle in on the “back porch” performance space and open your ears.

      Big Mama’s Rib Shack (Saturday Night Blues).

      If you haven’t caught one of the blues shows at Big Mama’s Rib Shack, catch one soon – or two or three or more!

      By Carol Edger Germain


      Josh Smith (Photo - joshsmithguitar.com).

      Josh Smith (Photo – joshsmithguitar.com).

      Cadillac Zack, blues aficionado, promoter, and producer extraordinaire, has been treating Pasadena blues fans to top notch blues performance several Saturday nights a month for two years.  The shows are always tight, energetic, and showcase some of the very best in blues that the country has to offer.

      I am a big blues fan as well, but without the wide range of knowledge of who’s out there that Zack has.  He has introduced me to at least a couple of dozen artists I didn’t know, but won’t forget.  For the solo musicians without a regular full band, many local artists join in to support them, and they are always immediately in sync, I’m always impressed that they sound like they’ve been playing together for years.  Lots of camaraderie, personality, joking and warmth on the stage always, and seeing them in such a casual, intimate venue is such a treat, as if they were entertaining you in your own living room while mama serves you some jambalaya, red beans and rice, or blackened catfish.

      Last Saturday, July 15, we had the pleasure of spending over two hours listening to Josh Smith exhibit his mastery on the guitar as well as vocals, playing selections from his various CDs, from slow laments to rockin’, feet tappin’ and clappin’ numbers (and one hard rock number that he “asked permission” to insert in a blues show).   Another thing about many of the solo artists who appear at Big Mama’s is that they are not stage hogs, they respect each other and don’t hesitate to showcase the talents of all the supporting musicians, so you always get more than your money’s worth.

      Big Mama’s has a special limited “Music Menu” for Saturday nights, since they are serving later than usual and serving a large crowd in one sitting, but plenty of variety to choose from (blackened catfish, Cajun fries, and collard greens highly recommended!).  Join me there soon – Rob Rio is scheduled for July 22, sure to be sold out, and don’t miss Texas blues man Tutu Jones on August 5.  Get yourself on the mailing list to keep up with what’s coming up, check out the music samples, and come mingle with the friendly, casual, music loving crowd, there’s usually an extra seat or two at my table.  Shows always start on time (8 pm), and end about 10:30 pm.  Plenty of free parking – they have a small lot, but it’s easiest to park on Lake or the side streets.

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