Northeast coffee shop serves up local music

At Five Watt Coffee’s “Bummer Strummer Sessions,” local music meets unique coffee combinations.

Regional Dialect, a local music duo consisting of Mathias Hertel, left, and Colin Doherty, performs at Bummer Strummer Sessions at Five Watt Coffee on Friday, Oct. 21.

Will Tooke

Regional Dialect, a local music duo consisting of Mathias Hertel, left, and Colin Doherty, performs at Bummer Strummer Sessions at Five Watt Coffee on Friday, Oct. 21.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

Five Watt Coffee’s Northeast location, which opened about a year ago, is quickly becoming a hub for local musicians to gather and share their work. The shop’s “Bummer Strummer Sessions” feature heavyhearted acoustic tunes that invite everyone in the room to find camaraderie through what’s described as “intimate feels.”

Every other week, the coffee shop transforms into a small venue. The lights dim and the hum of the espresso machine adds a comforting layer to the performances.

On Friday, almost every seat in the shop was filled as three acts performed.

The sessions are presented by Radio Five Watt, an internet radio station based in the coffee shop. Tucker Sterling Jensen, the station manager and program director, curates local music to stream on the station 24 hours a day, every day.

“We wanted to make something where it can be like a quick turn around,” Jensen said. “Someone sends me something and I’ll check it out and if it’s something that I’m into … I can add it on to the stream in a second and it’s ready to go and it’s playing.”

The shop’s focus on local music comes from co-founder Caleb Garn, who incorporated his interest in music into Five Watt Coffee’s culture. At the “Bummer Strummer Sessions,” musicians perform their acoustic sets on a stage in the shop while coffee-drinkers mingle or type away on their laptops.

“It’s just another component of the Five Watt brand — it’s always been a very music centered thing,” Jensen said. “The Five Watt name comes from the studio that [Garn] used to run, called Five Watt Studio … So, we sat down and talked about it.”

The result was a resource for those looking to break into the industry. Five Watt Radio produces a local musician-centered podcast called “Back of House” which is hosted by Garn. Jensen is also working to produce a local music business podcast.

“We’re going to try to do … an umbrella of public Radio Five Watt produced content,” Jensen said.

The content doesn’t stop at streaming and podcasts.Five Watt Coffee and the radio station want to create a hub for musicians to celebrate their community and share their talents.

“This is [Garn’s] spot and he’s just such a huge fan of music itself,” said Mathias Hertel, one of the musicians at Friday night’s “Bummer Strummer Session.” “He built a stage for musicians and us musicians bring him fans that buy coffee. It’s just a win-win.”

In addition to the “Bummer Strummer Sessions,” the shop hosts “Totally Organ-ic Thursdays,” where a musician plays an in-house organ for the night. The “Bummer Strummer Sessions” began this fall and are curated by Laura Hugo, a singer/songwriter and barista at the shop.

“There’s just such a great local community of musicians in Minneapolis,” said Colin Doherty, who plays with Hertel in their band, Regional Dialect. “It encourages people to see local music and see local art because there’s so much of it out there.”

Friday’s session was saturated in a feeling of pure love for the Twin Cities music scene. Hugo began the night with a few of her own pieces, followed by Hertel and Doherty. The night closed with Warren Thomas Fenzi.

The acoustic sound brought additional warmth to the shop, making you feel as though you were visiting a friend.

“The cup of coffee is not the end, it’s like the center of community that comes around in a cool coffee shop where you feel comfortable, where you like to be in,” Jensen said. “It becomes kind of an identity of where you hang.”

What: “Bummer Strummer Sessions”

When: 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., every other Friday

Where: Five Watt Coffee, 861 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: Free