An incomplete list of musicians who have performed at Maude, in no particular order: Chris Thomson, Chris Morrissey, Bryan Nichols, Tim Glenn, Anthony Cox, Jay Epstein, Dean Granros, Patrick Harison, Dean Magraw, Dosh, Paul Metzger, Michael Lewis, Adam Linz, JT Bates, Chris Bates, Dave King, James Buckley, Milo Fine, Davu Seru, Alden Ikeda, Earworm, Eric Gravatt, Park Evans, Luke Polipnick, Rahjta Ren, Jeremy Boettcher, Sean Carey, Zacc Harris, Brandon Wozniak, Josh Granowski, Todd Clouser, Peter Schimke, Graydon Peterson, Babatunde Lea, Nathan Hanson, Brian Roessler, Pete Hennig.
As of March 1, there will be no more music at Maude. Bookings already scheduled for that month have been cancelled. I spoke with owner Kevin Sheehy yesterday to find out why, although I already knew the reason: the challenge of running a restaurant in a cruel economy. Over the past few years, he had done everything possible to keep the doors open and finally concluded that the music had to go. If he stops paying musicians, moves the piano out, and replaces the stage with a banquette and more tables, maybe Maude will survive.
“It absolutely breaks my heart,” he said. “I held off as long as I could. I’ve been trying for three and a half years to figure out a way for that restaurant to make a profit, but we haven’t made money yet. We have lost money every year.
“I don’t have deep pockets, and there’s only so much that’s discretional. I’m so grateful, and so proud of the scene we created, but to hang on and keep losing money for the sake of the music would not be acceptable. I’ve been poring over numbers, and it’s a matter of survival. I owe it to my investor, my landlords, my employees, my bank, and myself. But it breaks my heart.”
HH and I were at Maude on Saturday, the night before the news about Sheehy's decision started getting around. It's been one of our favorite neighborhood hangs for years. We were having dinner and listening to saxophonist Nathan Hanson, bassist Brian Roessler, and drummer Pete Hennig play their richly inventive, uplifting music only inches away. We had asked to be seated near the music, and the last table available was right in front of the stage. One edge actually hangs over the stage. It’s as close to the music as you can get, and at Maude, that’s not a bad thing if you’re there to listen.
|Brian Roessler and Pete Hennig|
Maude has always been a yin-yang kind of place: one part trendy restaurant, one part serious music venue. Some people have come for the music; others have complained on Open Table and Yelp that they couldn’t hear themselves talk over the music. Often, the crowd noise has drowned out the first set.
On Saturday, Hanson, Roessler, and Hennig played a short first set for that reason, then returned for a lengthy and mesmerizing second set, full of expression and nuance, fire and dreams. There were two long pieces, one a playground of time signatures, the other an exploration that resolved into Hennig's solemn and thoughtful "Inversion Is the Condition," and two shorter ones including a Cambodian folk tune. Because we were sitting so near, the chatter receded.
Maude has gotten away with being noisy because, well, it’s Maude. Sheehy loves music and treats the musicians well. The people who book the music at Maude (most recently, Paul Hirte) know what they’re doing. And sooner or later on a typical evening, the crowd thins enough or quiets down enough that the music rises up and carries you away.
You can still hear music at Maude through February. After that, if the economy improves, if the restaurant business brightens, Sheehy says, "I'd bring the music back in a heartbeat."
Ode to Maude (September 27, 2009)
Café Maude: Unlikely venue offers serious jazz on menu (January 4, 2008)