Every day, a kazillion University of Ottawa students walk by Simard Hall, eyes forward, headphones on. Being a student is a tough gig, and each of them has numerous things to focus on, like not getting hit by that car at the cross walk or figuring out where the heck CUBE building is. Some will soldier on, fighting through the crowds and against the cold winds, while others will take refuge in Simard Hall’s basement, in Café Alt, the university’s only student run food vendor.
The small café has become a favourite hangout spot for students. With an ever-improving menu and a nice atmosphere, Café Alt has carved out a slice of sustainability heaven. And while it’s become famous for its food, Café Alt will soon be offering more of another kind of sustenance: music.
Hosted by Pop Drone, a brand new local label, the Café Alt Concert Series is set to kick off on February 1st with a local star-studded lineup featuring Winchester Warm, Camp Radio, Organ Eyes, and Dutch electronic dance acts Yuri Bakker and Dialoog. That’s a pretty good lineup for five bucks. And it just continues like that, with concerts spaced out as far as late March, and new acts being added all the time.
Over the years, the small café has played host to many musical acts, including Hollerado, Leif Vollebekk, Passion Pit and Basia Bulat. But music has never been a mainstay—the café has never really become a venue. Well, Greggory Clark, co-founder of Pop Drone, aims to change all that. While working as a barista at Café Alt, he daydreamed about turning the café into a cultural hub. With this concert series, he hopes to do just that: “Should we earn the community’s support, the long-term plan is to kick off weekly programming in September,” he explains.
Clark firmly believes in the viability of the café as a venue. “As a space, Café Alt has so much potential,” He says. “When a concert takes place the café flips into an entirely different atmosphere.” This atmosphere includes a Kichesippi-powered popup bar, local art installations, and artistic projections. It’s the epitome of an “intimate” setting; there’s very little separation between the performers and the audience, something that often makes for Hollywood Magic. Plus, Clark points out that since the campus is pretty empty at night, noise-complaints are not a problem.
The full lineup for the series includes acts like Scattered Clouds, Couples, and The Elwins. It’s an eclectic mix, and Clark says the breadth of the lineup was the intention from the beginning. “Café Alt’s community is hardly homogenous,” he notes. “The intent of our programming team has been to reflect a variety of tastes.” These tastes range from electronic to indie rock, and make some stops in between. For Clark, it is the quality of the art that comes first. “We’d like listeners to know that we dig these bands and have chosen them for being talented and thoughtful for musicians, rather than checked boxes on a list of popular genres.”
With a five dollar entry fee, and cheap beer from Kichesippi to top it off, the series is shaping up to be a very cool one. The first show is February 1st, followed by shows on Feb 14th and March 15th.
And check out our weekly radio show on CHUO 89.1 FM tonight at 9pm to hear an exclusive live set from Yuri Bakker, one of the artists set to play the concert series.