Fringe review: ‘Joe’s Café’

Joe’s Café, Rupert Wates and Friends, New York, NY. Blue venue, 60 minutes, $10. (Discounts: Seniors.)

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Rupert Wates (Dan Nirman Photography)

If you hang out at Joe’s Cafe, you’re taking a relaxing visit to the past. Not the oldies-but-goodies kind of past, because several of Rupert Wates’ story songs take place in recent times. But a musical style of the past — specifically the era of 1960s folk music, which guitarist/singer Wates and singer Kellie Amend re-create in such an authentic way that you feel transported to a circa-1968 coffee-house in Harvard Square.

Wates is a British-born songwriter who moved to the U.S. about five years ago; he has worked in jazz, but he’s so masterly on acoustic folk guitar that it’s hard to imagine him doing anything else. With Joe’s Cafe he has written more than a dozen songs telling the stories of ordinary Americans, most of whom have faced one trouble or another (war, the Dust Bowl, the fight for civil rights).

Some are right out of the headlines (the story of a police shooting in Queens in 2006), and others are out of history books (the lovely, moving song about Maj. Robert Gould Shaw’s African-American regiment during the Civil War).

Throughout, Amend’s light, shimmery voice may remind you of the young Judy Collins, and the sweet combination of that voice and Wates’ guitar draws any tension right out of you. Even if some of the lyrics come across as obvious or overly sentimental, the musicality in this little revue makes it a breath of fresh air among the din of the Fringe.

Remaining shows:
Monday May 23, 6:10 p.m.
Wednesday May 25, 8:40 p.m.
Friday May 27, 5:15 p.m.
Saturday May 28, 6:50 p.m.

One response to “Fringe review: ‘Joe’s Café’

  1. Robert Del Medico

    One of my surprise favorites of the Fringe. A delightful hour spent!

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