Word reached me the other day that there was going to be live music tonight and Saturday at BenLee’s Cafe, the big-city-looking (My mom, upon visiting several months ago, remarked, "I can’t believe you have this in Worthington") eatery on 10th Street. This is a good thing, indeed, and just the thought of live music in a coffeehouse setting takes me to my childhood – and my not-so-distant – past.
Performing tonight and Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. (it’s being billed as a dinner-concert event), the duo of Bill and Kate Isles will play some delightful folk music that can be sampled fairly extensively on their Web site. On a cold evening, this kind of music – along with a fresh cup of hot chocolate – has proven to be many a person’s ideal companion.
In my hometown of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., I was exposed to the folk music scene at a very early age, which in turns makes it pretty cool that such a performance space is beginning to emerge in Worthington. Caffè Lena, "widely recognized as the oldest continuously operating coffeehouse in the United States" (according to www.caffelena.org), first swung open its doors in 1960 and has helped launch many well-known singer-songwriters, with Minnesota’s own Bob Dylan at the top of the list. It’s a small (85-seat) but acoustically amazing and wonderfully intimate space to hear music. I imagine I first went and saw performers there when I was 7 or 8; my dad played in a group there (I will always recall that the place’s owner and founder, who passed away several years ago, forbade drums; that rule has since been relaxed considerably). Since then, I’ve seen many acts at Lena’s, and even got to perform a couple of times myself on the venerable stage as part of a recital of local guitar students.
From a brief listen to the music of Bill and Kate Isles, this pleasant-sounding duo would be right at home at Caffe Lena. They should also feel right at home at BenLee’s, where they’ve played before and hopefully will come back to – and tell their performing friends about, too. It would be wonderful for Worthington to get a steady diet of these kind of musicians – in one of the city’s nicer venues, to boot.