Observations: Late latte show for Emily

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Coffee shops have a special place in the history of pop. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, they were where frothy-lipped young British music fans hung out and one, the 2 I's (that's how the neon sign in London's Old Compton Street spelt it), is even credited as the birthplace of British rock'n'roll – its tiny basement stage having been the caffeine-fuelled launch-pad for Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde, Tommy Steele, Terry Dene and more.

A few years later, over in Greenwich Village, New York, and harking back to London in the late 17th century, when dissent brewed in the capital's coffeehouses, cafés provided the platform for emerging protest-folkies such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell.

Now, in an echo of those earlier days, the British chain Caffè Nero is opening in the evenings for music for the first time, with free performances by fast-rising singer-songwriter Emily Maguire at many of the chain's outlets until the end of February.

Maguire's latest single, "I'd Rather Be", is playlisted on BBC Radio 2 and MTV viewers will have seen and heard her as part of its Climate Change campaign with Greenpeace.

She has grounds for optimism: "Coffee shops are perfect for acoustic music," she told me over a sensible decaff. "The songs I play are very acoustic and in some ways a bit ethereal, so they benefit from the quiet you get in such an intimate space."