You’ve become accoustomed to me writing reviews of events I attend in Chester. You probably read my review of The Jost Project performance at Andres on Friday night.
In a unique twist, vocalist Paul Jost was so enamored with Andre Cafe Acoustique that he wrote his heartfelt opinions of the experience he had performing in Chester on Friday night.
I’ve edited his letter slightly for this post.
I wanted to make you aware of a space we just played called André Café Acoustique.
There are so many places we all play, but this space has a special appeal. It’s in the heart of Chester, PA. and it takes love and commitment to keep it going, and Paul Fejko and Donald Newton have both in abundance. Performing there speaks to one of the things that touches me most about music, and one of the things that will keep me forever young, and that is, music’s ability to connect and engage. I suppose that’s the ultimate purpose and the sweetest fruit that music can yield; it’s ability to inspire, to motivate…and to heal.
Upon arriving Friday night, I noticed one of the entrance doors was open but with stacked tables blocking its ability to open fully. I stuck my head in and yelled “Hello? Hello?” but no one was there. The main door was locked, so we waited rather than venture in unannounced. When the owner arrived and let us in, I told him about the side door and he said sometimes he forgets to lock it but in all the years no one had ever come in or did any damage or stole anything.
It was a little musty, a sort of makeshift performance space at first glance. Nothing fancy in a traditional sense, but inviting and inclusive, and as he opened the windows, turned on the lights and placed the furniture around, you could feel the place come to life. It has a life and an energy.
I asked him how many people he expected. He said anywhere from three to thirty. He said he never really knows for sure. Regardless of the turnout he pipes the music into the street so it’s still available for free to those who can’t afford to pay. You can hear the reflection off the buildings coming back at you through the open windows.
He has a friend Jim (Italian Brothers) from up the street who’s been working in his deli originally owned by his father since he was six. He brings trays of the most delicious sandwiches. Seriously, delicious. Like the best rolls I’ve ever tasted. Everything fresh. Some sandwiches are vegetarian with arugula, some with turkey, some Italian. Fresh lettuce and tomatoes. There was fried chicken and coleslaw, and so much more. All provided for the people who attended, and it seemed for anyone who walked through the doors. Again this sense of community overwhelms me. Everyone coming together, and it transported me for a minute to the firehouse series in Philly a few years back that was run by my friend Denise King.
I think we had an audience of twenty people at André Café Acoustique (and that might be a high estimate). But when I looked out it was like seeing the orchestra. The community had arrived and we were all together, all sharing the space and time…life. During the intermission we had an opportunity to connect one on one. The variety of conversation was beautiful, heartfelt and sincere. To my surprise (almost disbelief), by the end of the night we’d sold a drop card and eight CD’s. We’ve sometimes played for eleven hundred people and not sold eight CD’s!
At the close of the performance I told the audience that I’m speaking for myself, not as a representative of the group or for anyone else, just saying what I feel. And what I feel is that I know we’re all growing weary of being relentlessly reminded of our capacity for fear and hate, and being pointed (if not driven) toward a location farther and farther away from an age of enlightenment. And I’d be a fool to think that I or this small group could change the world, but I DO know we can keep our love and understanding and acceptance, and basic human decency intact and alive in our small corner. That much we CAN do. WE are in charge. We may have the capacity for fear and hate, but we have an even greater capacity for love and understanding. I KNOW it to be true because I’ve been embraced by it and witness to it in my life, just as I was Friday night at André Café Acoustique.
I told Paul the owner that I’d do my best to let people know about this small oasis of humanity. He doesn’t have a Facebook account so I can’t direct you there, but below is the website and other info. Please take a look and support this place the best you can either as performer or as an audience member. If your faith and spirit are feeling burdened or challenged, both will be lifted and restored.
André Café Acoustique http://andre-cafe.com/ Located on the NE Corner of 5th Street and Edgmont Avenue in Chester, PA. (GPS: 39.84773 -75.36101). PO Box 408 | Chester, PA., USA | 19016 609/462-9000 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Paul Fejko – Artistic Director Donald Newton – Managing Director