Take photos for food? An email forwarded by the Berkeley Camera Club offered a free meal at the Hippie Gypsy Cafe in exchange for capturing the evening’s musical talent on camera. How could I resist? The H.G. Cafe is on a rather toney block of Shattuck Avenue, a street with a dozen coffee houses, and stands out from the crowd by its decorative embrace of the counterculture of fifty years ago. There’s a carefree rendition of a flower-bedecked VW bus on one wall — hence the Hippie — and on the opposite wall, a wooden stage set that might have come from a fortune teller’s booth at a carnival, thus the Gypsy. Inbetween roams owner Mary Dirks, whipping up frosties, grilling sandwiches, and much else, in perpetual rapid motion, so that I had a hard time capturing a snapshot of her without using flash.
The musical entertainment my first night consisted of Eileen Hazel with her guests Howie Goetz and Kimba Theurich, followed by Nic “Coppertop” Rogoff. They were all pleasant to listen to, though somewhat painful to photograph because the lighting was challenging – lit from the top rear, leaving faces mostly in the shadow. But there was a good crowd, all seats taken, some people standing in the rear. I got the impression that the musicians were playing for about the same wages as me. I liked the place enough to come back the next night for Open Mic. Same bad lighting but lots of talent. The stars of the Open Mic were Clyde Leland, a Bay Area veteran who’s been writing and singing protest songs for decades, and Max Newton, who MC’ed the production. (Clyde and Max, with award-winning singer/songwriter Kress Cole, will play at the Freight & Salvage Aug. 30).
Umm, the sandwich that was my reward was very good. So here’s my work product from the two nights at the H.G. Cafe.
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