Coffee houses as commercial, economic ventures survive in the pseudo arty world of the Toronto Village. For the outsider looking in they are almost non existent on the creative artistic level.
Checkered table cloths and wine bottles with candles take the place of the true artists, poets and musicians who are looking for something to happen.
The ring of the cash register means more to Village managers than the promotion of these types merely because they have no other choice.
In order to survive, the 20 per cent creative elite must be dominated by the curiosity seekers who pay.
In Sault Ste Marie we experienced the same coffee house dilemma. The Jazz Workshop and Studio 515 lasted as fads for a few months but were forced to close because the fad wore off and there wasn’t a new group to support the effort.
Despite the fact only a small percentage of any creative undertaking is truly creative it allows artists to play what they want rather than be relegated to rock and roll..
A reporter for the newly established Undiplomatic Courier, the Village newspaper, claims only the non commercial places will last.
“At the present time, there is a boom in coffee houses. They are the place to be. But one has only to glance at the faces desperately waiting for something to happen, to know the boom will soon bust.”
The faces are the many university students and young people who wander up and down Yorkville Street every Saturday night out of boredom, complaining of 35 cent coffee and commercial atmosphere when they themselves are creating it.
They pollute the air with their stereotyped conventional attitudes. The artists are at their mercy.
Fortunately the few true types make the venture worth while. The Undiplomatic Courier went on to say; “The people who do things will never pay the bills, but they bring the people who do.”
If an artist is to live a half respectable life he must commit himself to at least forty hours of work a week. The 80 per cent entertainable class make it possible.
This has always been the plight of coffee house artists. They entertain a large audience and communicate with few.
Our Saturday night in the Village whether typical or not, proved interesting. At the corner of Yorkville and Bloor a slightly anemic looking character was selling the first edition of The Village newspaper and beside him a young girl had committed herself to having her portrait sketched by one of the artists.
Great crowds milled up and down the street and policemen took up sentry duties at various intervals. There seemed to be a number of high schoolers, a few inebriated college students, those who enjoyed the music and people like ourselves spending their first night at The Village.
We pushed our way through a large crowd which had gathered on a space of ground between two buildings and found an elderly man dressed in women’s clothes playing a guitar, and mouth organ at the same time while the bells on his feet jingled in time to his music.
The crowd turned sympathetic when the manager of the club next door kicked him off his property in foul terms and ten minutes later a small riot broke out as they marched up the street with Peaches, as he was called.
Peaches didn’t want any trouble but his protectorate protested and the police came.
We tried getting into a few of the doors and were turned away from many because there was a full house.
Coffee houses are a booming business.
When turned away we made our way to the popcorn man and wandered on down the street where would-be artists were trying their hand at painting abstracts with tubes of paint. For a small fee anyone can try and it’s fun.
The Village is fun. Although commercial it’s an interesting Saturday night.
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