Weekends in Ann Arbor always seem to drop to sub-zero levels right around the time the temperature does. Those fraternity parties miles away have somehow lost their glamour and your hot new outfit is not looking so sexy bundled under layers of fleece and Gortex. Luckily for music-lovers and caffeine addicts there is one warm, dry and generally sober alternative hiding out in the Tea Room of Crazy Wisdom Bookstore on Main Street.
On any given Friday or Saturday night from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., a walk up the stairs of this eccentrically soulful shop will lead you to a tearoom alive with music. The popular yet unconventional caf overlooking the always-bustling Main Street consistently welcomes local, national and international talent to perform for its customers. As Hobart Taylor, an artist manager who books the free music at the tearoom explains, “Crazy Wisdom Tearoom seeks to fill a local void for acoustic music venues dedicated to the listener.”
The audience members seem to agree that the tearoom is unique as a concert venue, not only because it”s free but also because the range of performers is so vast. Diane and Lynn Morgan, musicians from Brighton, attend the weekend concerts frequently saying, “It”s usually different, original music. It”s not your typical cover bands.” With new performers every Friday and Saturday night, regulars have learned to expect the unexpected but because the performers must audition to get a chance to play there, a high-quality show is almost always a guarantee.
If you have your doubts about making the trek to Main Street to see an artist you”ve never heard before, Taylor ensures, “the local artists are all of national quality.”
The intimate and personal performing environment serves as a comfortable and stress-free gig for these talented singer-songwriters, who can usually expect a large and diverse crowd of students, musicians, middle-aged professionals and tea enthusiasts. Last friday night”s performer, a professional musician from Belleville named Kevin Miesel, has serenaded the tearoom listeners with his self-written American folk music six times over the years, saying he enjoys the venue because “the crowds are always receptive.”
Adding to the tearoom experience is the atmosphere. The low, romantic lighting compliments the lovingly detailed decorations perfectly. A University graduate student, Laura Citrin, enjoys coming in just to sit and talk because, “It”s pretty here. It”s very relaxing.” With the smell of fresh-brewed tea and the sound of acoustic music filling the air, it is no mystery why there are regulars like Ann Arbor resident, Brett Athey, who says “I like coming in to such a peaceful and positive place.”
If Main Street seems like a hike come wintertime, similar concerts are held in the closer-to-campus Espresso Royale on State Street. Most weekends, this popular student study and hangout spot also offers free concerts from local Ann Arbor talent. Several Friday nights ago, Kyle Norris took the stage (or more accurately, corner) to serenade the crowd with her soulful and poetic self-written acoustic set with a few personalized covers ranging from Counting Crows to Jennifer Lopez. A former University student, Kyle finds the coffee shop scene suits her needs perfectly as a place where she can hone her performing skills in a low-pressure environment.
In between two of her most memorable songs, Norris told the audience, “Every song has a place.” In a time when boy bands and Britany Spears seem to be monopolizing most of those places, it is nice to know Ann Arbor has a few still open for more intimate acoustics.