The up side to having your own coffeehouse, aside from all the espresso you can drink, is the great people you meet. It’s a tradition that goes all the way back to the 17th century (or earlier) in Europe, where the coffee-shop-as-gathering-place concept became known as “penny universities” — you could pay a small fee and have access to coffee, conversation and knowledge. While great coffee is essential, great company is even more so.
I first met Bryan Batson and Darrin Kobetich when they played at my coffee shop on Berry Street, and one day in 2005, I met a man from the U.K. named David Clarke who was opening a coffee shop and roasting company in Grapevine, Buon Giorno. What impressed me about these men was their passion for their art — Batson and Kobetich for their music, and Clarke for coffee. When I read that the former two had teamed up for a show billed as Hear and Now at the Buon Giorno in Fort Worth, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night.
Buon Giorno Fort Worth is just off of Henderson Street, north of Interstate 30. Just on the southwestern edge of downtown, it’s kind of hidden, and if you don’t know where it is, you might miss it as you drive by. Still, the place had a good crowd. Kobetich was playing guitar near the back of the room, surrounded by coffee drinkers and students trying to study. I got some homemade short bread (Clarke’s family recipe) and a French press of Yirgacheffe, an Ethiopian coffee that takes care to roast properly (and this was perfect). Buon Giorno roasts its coffee at its Grapevine location.
Kobetich was soon joined by Batson, who alternated between playing an Akai digital wind instrument and a real saxophone. Kobetich’s guitar work is normally aggressive and percussive, with lots of tapping, slaps and dramatic accents. But paired with Batson’s electronic wind instrument, things were a bit more subdued, ethereal and introspective. There was a strong improvisational current running through this performance.
At one point, Kobetich switched to a cümbüs, a 12-string Turkish instrument that is kind of a fretless hybrid of a banjo and an oud. The music had an Eastern, mystical flavor to it, and I kept waiting for a snake to come out of a basket like in an old cartoon. The duo continued to play right up until closing time, and I left with Kobetich’s new CD and some shortbread to buy my wife’s forgiveness for going to her favorite coffee shop without her.
Batson and Kobetich have a winning combination with Hear and Now. The music has a very organic feel to it, and the contrast between the wind (both electronic and traditional) and the stringed instruments keeps your attention without beating you over the head. And for this kind of music, there is no better venue than a small, community-based coffee house like Buon Giorno.