Wakefield is a small town about half an hour’s drive outside of Ottawa, in Quebec. It has little more than an out of use train station and track with weeds growing out of it, a scenic lake on which it is all set, a depanneur, a few arts shops and restaurants and minor lodging places, a covered bridge, a whole lot of surrounding ski resorts and … actually, it’s adding up to something now, isn’t it? And the population of Wakefield, I came to learn, is quite arty, intelligent and hip. And the Kaffé 1870 feels like a bit of Texas in Wakefield. Or something like that.
Third at the Kaffé 1870 in Wakefield
It is a warm bar that feels a little like a ranch, with a neat overhanging front porch for when it is warm – one day per year – and it has a couple of rooms within and a nice, cosy, but sizeable stage with a really decent sound system.
Second at the Kaffé 1870 in Wakefield
The open stage of the Kaffé 1870 has been running maybe 10 years or more, and Jamie is one of several rotating hosts. I mean, he doesn’t host it that often, but if he really wants to, it seems, he can. So it was that when he heard I was coming to town, he decided to host the open mic. And for him, that meant bringing his drum set and playing along with all of those participants who decided they wanted drums.
Fourth at the Kaffé 1870
So here was I playing my songs with Jamie on drums, another guy on bass, and during my Bob Dylan finale – “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere,” another musician leapt to the stage and did a wicked harmonica accompaniment. It was really surreal playing on that stage with our band with an old friend with whom I have never played music, and we didn’t even think to rehearse! And I think we nailed it!
First at the Kaffé 1870 in Wakefield
But if the night was only about me, then forget it. This was a hell of a night in terms of the quality of musicians and the atmosphere, and I am very happy that I was the second man to play. That role was bad enough after the brilliant fingerpicker. But had I seen the talent that would go up the entire nightlong, I’d have been much more reticent about getting up on stage.
There was a great energetic French singer, a kind of mini brass band, a super lead guitar player accompanying several other singer songwriter types, and just generally a very savvy bunch of performers and above all, above all an audience that was kind hearted and ready to dance, move, listen and jive. In fact, the whole evening was so much fun – and while the accent was on the English, there were a number of French people – that I just couldn’t draw myself away from watching, or talking to other old friends, long enough to make more than a handful of videos.
So don’t just try to figure things out with this blog account. Get over to the Kaffé 1870 the next time you happen to be in Wakefield, Quebec. Oh, yes, did I forget to mention that it felt really strange also playing there and knowing that in the 1970s my father had lived a three minute drive down the road?!
Anyway, there’s no jam like home.