Orlando Fringe Festival review: ‘Joe’s Cafe’

Here's the first of our reviews from the 2011 Orlando Fringe Festival Orlando Fringe Festival. (Many thanks to our audiences so far, who have given us standing ovations.)
From: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_stage_theat/2011/05/orlando-fringe-festival-review-joes-cafe.html

By Jim Abbott, Orlando Sentinel music critic

If they told American history in songs instead of textbooks, maybe more people would remember it.

Of course, the songs would have to be compelling and beautiful, like the ones featured in the delicate, folk-tinged “Joe’s Café.”

That wonderful musical revue features the songwriting of British-born New Yorker Rupert Wates, whose narrative storytelling is superb – even by the highest folk-music standards.

These tales revolve around crimes, compassion, nostalgia and social commentary, all wrapped in the exploits of characters that are remarkably well-drawn in compact songs.

Rupert sings some, but distinguishes himself more with his fluid acoustic guitar picking. His partner, singer Kellie Amend, handles most of the vocals in a crystalline voice vaguely reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.

Her voice was sweet in the gentle “Snow in New York,” then haunting in an a cappella interlude in the tragic “Skies of South Dakota.” Together, Rupert and Amend were joyous in “Days of Mercy,” a Dust Bowl ode that ended the show on a high note.

“Here’s to you and here’s to me,” they sang. “Here’s to all we’ve ever seen.”

With graceful words and music, “Joe’s Café” offers yet another look at that incredible past.

Blue venue, 60 minutes, $10.

Remaining shows:

5/23 MON 6:10PM
5/25 WED 8:40PM
5/27 FRI 5:15PM
5/28 SAT 6:50PM

Joe's Cafe performance calendar

1 comment

  • Spensyr Mayfield

    Spensyr Mayfield

    I attended Joe's cafe at the Orlando Fringe Festival on Wednesday, May 25th. Let me start my comment by acknowledging that Wates and Amend are wildly talented musicians and performers. I found much of this show truly enjoyable, and I purchased a cd of the original production of this show on my way out the door. My only criticism is that Wates is presenting a show that succeeds not only from the energy generated by skilled musical talents, but also from the emotional tether Wates' "true" stories form to the audience. In truth, perhaps "based on a true story with more than a little artistic license taken in some cases" would be more...truthful. Nowhere was this more evident to me than in Wates' '50 shots' the song referenced in Ms. Maupin's review as "the story of a police shooting in Queens in 2006". At this point I will also acknowledge that I am the wife of a police officer who, until recently, was one of New York's finest. Therefore, you may feel free to take the following comments with a grain of salt...You won't get that kind of disclosure from Wates in Joe's Cafe. '50 shots' is Wates' dramatic adaptation of the incidents surrounding the shooting of Sean Bell in a strip club parking lot in 2006. I won't go into all the details, which are readily available on Google if anyone is interested, but I will say that Wates introduces the song as being about the shooting of an unarmed man that the undercover police had fingered as a drug dealer only because they "didn't like his face"...and that they later were too quick to fire upon Sean Bell because they "thought he had a gun". In Wates' version of the truth this is a tragically moving story of police brutality, made all the worse when Wates' lyrics reveal that it was Sean Bell's wedding day, and that at trial all the cops were let off...is there any justice in this world? Wates has left out the widely reported, and testified to, facts that Sean Bell was already behind the wheel of his vehicle, with the engine running when police asked him to turn off the car and show his hands. Sean Bell then attempted to flee in his vehicle- twice- before the officer, who Wates described as "too quick to shoot", opened fire on Bell through the rear window of the vehicle. Other officers arriving at the scene also opened fire. Here's the point...are 50 bullets in a man too many? Perhaps. But, Wates paints a picture of a well intentioned, unarmed, O.G. minding his own business, meandering in the parking lot after his bachelor party when he is brutally gunned down for no reason other than the idiot cops were trigger happy. That just wasn't the case. Further, Wates has written this "story" from the point of view from Sean Bell's fiancé and he implies at the end that she's got her own gun now and is plotting her own justice? What?! Vigilante Justice? No...In 2010 Bell's fiancé ran for city council in queens stating that the shooting of her fiancé made her realize there were problems out there that she felt she could help solve by political action...not by gunning down police officers. She didn't win that election but made a good showing in the election. I think Wates' story trivializes her story as well as demonizes the police. Please Mr. Wates...if you are going to tell a real-life story...tell the whole story...or else let the audience know that the story is only "based on" real-life stories. I found the edited and romanticized version of your "facts" in 50 Shots to be very disrespectful to law enforcement officers. If just one of my fellow audience member's feelings about the police were negatively influenced then I am disappointed in you at leading them there with half-truths and fabrications by telling them that "all the stories are true." In the end, my applause for Joe's Cafe as a show was just as enthusiastic as the next patron...however I chose to hold my applause after 50 Shots...and I'm glad it's not on the cd. A song like that may have its place on an album...just not on one you'd like to claim is telling the "truth".

    I attended Joe's cafe at the Orlando Fringe Festival on Wednesday, May 25th. Let me start my comment by acknowledging that Wates and Amend are wildly talented musicians and performers. I found much of this show truly enjoyable, and I purchased a cd of the original production of this show on my way out the door.

    My only criticism is that Wates is presenting a show that succeeds not only from the energy generated by skilled musical talents, but also from the emotional tether Wates' "true" stories form to the audience. In truth, perhaps "based on a true story with more than a little artistic license taken in some cases" would be more...truthful.

    Nowhere was this more evident to me than in Wates' '50 shots' the song referenced in Ms. Maupin's review as "the story of a police shooting in Queens in 2006". At this point I will also acknowledge that I am the wife of a police officer who, until recently, was one of New York's finest. Therefore, you may feel free to take the following comments with a grain of salt...You won't get that kind of disclosure from Wates in Joe's Cafe.

    '50 shots' is Wates' dramatic adaptation of the incidents surrounding the shooting of Sean Bell in a strip club parking lot in 2006. I won't go into all the details, which are readily available on Google if anyone is interested, but I will say that Wates introduces the song as being about the shooting of an unarmed man that the undercover police had fingered as a drug dealer only because they "didn't like his face"...and that they later were too quick to fire upon Sean Bell because they "thought he had a gun".
    In Wates' version of the truth this is a tragically moving story of police brutality, made all the worse when Wates' lyrics reveal that it was Sean Bell's wedding day, and that at trial all the cops were let off...is there any justice in this world?

    Wates has left out the widely reported, and testified to, facts that Sean Bell was already behind the wheel of his vehicle, with the engine running when police asked him to turn off the car and show his hands. Sean Bell then attempted to flee in his vehicle- twice- before the officer, who Wates described as "too quick to shoot", opened fire on Bell through the rear window of the vehicle. Other officers arriving at the scene also opened fire.

    Here's the point...are 50 bullets in a man too many? Perhaps. But, Wates paints a picture of a well intentioned, unarmed, O.G. minding his own business, meandering in the parking lot after his bachelor party when he is brutally gunned down for no reason other than the idiot cops were trigger happy. That just wasn't the case.

    Further, Wates has written this "story" from the point of view from Sean Bell's fiancé and he implies at the end that she's got her own gun now and is plotting her own justice? What?! Vigilante Justice? No...In 2010 Bell's fiancé ran for city council in queens stating that the shooting of her fiancé made her realize there were problems out there that she felt she could help solve by political action...not by gunning down police officers. She didn't win that election but made a good showing in the election. I think Wates' story trivializes her story as well as demonizes the police.

    Please Mr. Wates...if you are going to tell a real-life story...tell the whole story...or else let the audience know that the story is only "based on" real-life stories. I found the edited and romanticized version of your "facts" in 50 Shots to be very disrespectful to law enforcement officers. If just one of my fellow audience member's feelings about the police were negatively influenced then I am disappointed in you at leading them there with half-truths and fabrications by telling them that "all the stories are true."

    In the end, my applause for Joe's Cafe as a show was just as enthusiastic as the next patron...however I chose to hold my applause after 50 Shots...and I'm glad it's not on the cd. A song like that may have its place on an album...just not on one you'd like to claim is telling the "truth".

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