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Katie Pfledderer of IndyFringe Talk gives Joe’s Café high marks 

So many emotions and memories | "I didn’t expect Joe’s Café to surface so many emotions and memories. Wates’ voice is pretty amazing. He hits a huge spectrum of high and low notes, making it look effortless – not to mention this is all happening while he’s playing his guitar. He seems to really enjoy himself and comes across as sincere and honest in all of his songs. I must confess I had not originally planned on visiting Joe’s Café, but per the advice in the First Time Fringers Guide, I ditched my plan…and glad I took a chance." (Katie Pfledderer, IndyFringe Talk, August 18, 2013)

Click here to read the full review.

Back in Indy Fringe, new review 

Please to be back in Indianapolis for the 2013 Indy Fringe! Here's a new review of the show:

An oral history, a welcome respite
| Presented as a night of live music at a cafe, the show is comfortable and welcoming. Wates performs his own songs, ballads reminiscent of Billy Joel's in their ability to tell stories. His music offers an oral history of troubled times across America through the years. The gentle music was a welcome respite after multiple back-to-back dramas. The song "Days of Mercy" was particularly haunting. (Melissa Hall, Indy Fringe Reviews, August 20, 2013)

New review from Montreal 

Vividly painted | "This show is for lovers of musical folklore. In a staged intimate setting meant to imitate that of a cozy all-night café, Rupert Wates uses soft melodies and catchy tunes to tell the stories of the American people. The catch, however, is that these are not the stories that you might read about in history books or see in Hollywood films. These stories do not depict the traditional American hero... Rather, these stories highlight the truth of heartbreak, loss and hope that mark the lives of America’s silent heroes... At times angry, sad and hopeful, these stories take you through vividly painted images of life... [An] escape into the quiet lives of others, and there is some sort of comfort in knowing that these lives have not been forgotten." (St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival 2013 review, Bloody, June 15, 2013)

New review in Orlando Sentinel 

Quietly powerful | "This musical café is a one-man operation now, but the charm of the place hasn't been affected much by being downsized. Joe's Café, a folk-tinged musical revue with a gentle message, features the songwriting and storytelling of British-born New Yorker Rupert Wates. Equipped with an acoustic guitar, Wates specializes in earthy tales about crimes, compassion, nostalgia and social commentary. Lyrically, these songs combine the economy of a Woody Guthrie ballad with the intricacies of contemporary singer-songwriter Richard Thompson. Like Thompson, Wates handles an acoustic guitar with deft precision, building his songs on a foundation of fluid finger-picking. This year, Wates performs alone, but the music remains quietly powerful." (Jim Abbott, Orlando Fringe Review, Orlando Sentinel, May 21, 2013) | Read full review

A new review in advance of our final SF Fringe performance of "Joe's Cafe" tonight at 5:30pm 

We're doing our final San Francisco Fringe Festival performance of "Joe's Cafe" tonight at 5:30pm at the Exit Theatre Main, 156 Eddy Street in San Francisco. We enjoyed seeing this kind review this morning, and we hope that if you're in the Bay Area you can come to the show tonight. It's been a great run. "After reading through all the reviews on here of this show I really don’t know what I could possible add. But here it goes. I went to see Joe’s Cafe on a whim. I am very lucky I did. Beautifully written, beautifully sung. All the performers had such a great talent for storytelling, which is something that the majority of singers in the world are lacking. If you are looking for variety in Fringe shows then Joe’s Cafe better be on your list. Heart-Breaking at times, funny at others, angry even at times but always honest and enjoyable." (JayeOfManyHats, 2011 San Francisco Fringe Festival audience reviews)

Two more reviews from San Francisco: 'Arresting...' and simply, 'See it' 

We have two more "Joe's Cafe" shows to perform in the San Francisco Fringe Festival—tonight (Saturday, September 17) at 9pm and tomorrow (Sunday, September 18) at 5:30pm. See our calendar for more information.

m'Arresting, heart-warming, and soulful' | "Beautiful, arresting, heart-warming, and soulful storytelling set to music. The different vocal styles of the four singers made the various songs seem both fresh and yet familiar. Truly an enjoyable evening, well worth your time!" (Sarah J. Lau, 2011 San Francisco Fringe Festival audience reviews)

'See it.' | "An hour of original music. Two men and two women. Some funny. Some touching. The themes of the songs are from (estimated), 1860′s through late 1960′s. Bring in a glass of wine or some other libation for this show. Then [sit] back and relax... This performance isn’t fringy. It’s just relaxing. See it." (Craig Kensek, 2011 San Francisco Fringe Festival audience reviews)

Review from San Francisco Fringe Festival: 'Emotionally rich...meaningful' 

Here's a review just posted about one of our performances in the San Francisco Fringe Festival. (Thanks, Greg!)

"Genuine commitment from all four musicians, emotionally rich original songs with meaningful historical elements, and once you’ve seen the show the CD is absolutely indispensable (and still very much worth having even if you can’t see the show). Moments of celebration and humor, moments of bittersweet melancholy, and everything in between….sometimes all at once." (Greg, 2011 San Francisco Fringe Festival audience reviews)

We have three more performances in the SF Fringe — tonight at 10:30pm, Saturday, 9/17, at 9pm, and Sunday, 9/18, at 5:30pm — all at the Exit Theatre Main, 156 Eddy Street in San Francisco. For details click here.

IndyFringe 2011 review: 'Taken back to the rich days of my youth... Indulge your ears.' 

"Since we see as many shows as we can (16 in 4 days this year) the challenge is to maximize variety and quality. Joe's Cafe was a rich dose of both. For me, I was taken back to the rich days of my youth when this style of music was called 'folk' and many great artists contributed to the legacy. Rupert Wates and his two excellent singers are a proud extension of the folk tradition with stories that reveal so much about the lifes we as people have led. Indulge your ears and drop in on Joe's Cafe." (Randy Waterhous, 2011 IndyFringe audience reviews)

Many thanks to the IndyFringe audience members who authored these latest reviews 

'Wonderful, masterful, must see' | "This was a very heartfelt show. All singers were really wonderful. The lyrics were masterful. This is a must see show. (Sue, 2011 IndyFringe audience reviews)

'Don't miss'
| "Joe's Cafe is a terrific performance by three very talented folks. I enjoyed every minute. Beautiful lyrics, stunning melodies, remarkable vocals, and virtuoso guitar. Don't miss this one! (John, 2011 IndyFringe audience reviews)

'Haunting with simplicity and beauty - Sweet' | "We chose this show at random, and we were stunned by the ability of these three performers to communicate their haunting tales with such simplicity and beauty. Every musical "story" created a clear picture in the mind of the listener, and each was tender in its own way. What a sweet, sweet show. We are so happy we stumbled into it. (Laura Harris, 2011 IndyFringe audience reviews)

'Best musical experience of my life' | "Joes cafe may be the best musical experience of my life. My heart was glowing and breakage at the same time. Amazing." (Tweet from Splanice on IndyFringe 2011 performance)

First reviews from 2011 IndyFringe 

Stacey, Penelope and I are enjoying our run at the 2011 IndyFringe in Indianapolis. Here are the first two reviews here:

'Marvelous' | Wow—what a terrific show. The original songs are based on true stories, and the performers sang them with such skill and care. Such marvelous voices...these folks know how to interpret a song! (Mary Armstrong-Smith, 2011 IndyFringe audience reviews)

'Simply breathtaking' | Wow! What a show! I've rarely enjoyed a fringe show as much as I enjoyed this one. It far exceeded my expectations. The songs were beautiful and sung from the heart. Some of Rupert's lyrics were simply breathtaking. They reminded me of the best of Harry Chapin's story songs. [Rupert Wate's] guitar playing was exceptional and the two female singers were outstanding. My favorite song had to be The Skies of South Dakota. Stacey Lorin's near accapella vocals were hauntingly beautiful. [Penelope Thomas'] voice was incredible on Sally's Farm. You should definitely go see this show if you're a lover of music and lyrics. (Mike Smith, 2011 IndyFringe audience reviews)

Stunning voices, welcoming atmosphere with story-driven songs 

From a "Joe's Cafe" review in Saskatoon: "Folksy and comfortable, the hour-long musical revue features songs about America — from the Civil War through present day — written by British ex-pat Rupert Wates. Based in New York City, the musician invites the audience into a friendly cafe to listen to tales of hope, sorrow, love and loss. Wates, whose guitar skills and vocals are excellent, performs his work with Meghan Lofgren and Tara Stadnyk, whose stunning voices add character to the musical stories. As the trio performs — usually with each singer taking turns with solo pieces — old photos (and sometimes photos made to look old) illustrate the emotions the songs work to invoke in the audience. From interracial marriage in the 1950s to travelling across the United States during the Great Depression, the images quietly add to the experience. A welcoming atmosphere with story-driven songs and lovely vocals..." (Cassandra Kyle, The StarPhoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

'Hearty meal for the ears and the soul' 

Review from the London Fringe, London, Ontario:

"Most Fringe shows are one story, or maybe two. At Joe’s Café, Rupert Wates and friends...tell more than a dozen true stories in song. Wates is British, but now lives in the U.S., and while these are songs of people from his adopted home, they ring true for all of us, with tales that are inspiring, sad, and honest. And equally important, the songs, all written by Wates, and accompanied by his skilled acoustic guitar playing, are well crafted and beautifully performed. While Joe’s Café doesn’t serve up traditional Fringe fare, it’s a hearty meal for the ears and the soul. (And you can get take-out: Joe’s Café is available on CD as well.) (Laurie Bursch, London Fringe Reviews, London, Ontario, June 18, 2011)

And a response: "Agree entirely. Wates pulled me almost physically into Joe's Cafe and I just sat down and was immersed in the "stories". Stacey Lorin, his wife and fellow performer, has such a lovely voice. The two of them are fine musicians, but, above all, each knows how to tell a story in song. A delightful performance. And I have the CD, so I can re-live the pleasure." (Joe, London Fringe Reviews, London, Ontario, June 19, 2011)

'Joe's Cafe' Fringe review: 'A breath of fresh air' 

From a review by Elizabeth Maupin in "Elizabeth Maupin on Theater" (May 23, 2011)

"If you hang out at Joe’s Cafe, you’re taking a relaxing visit to the past. Not the oldies-but-goodies kind of past, because several of Rupert Wates’ story songs take place in recent times. But a musical style of the past — specifically the era of 1960s folk music, which guitarist/singer Wates and singer Kellie Amend re-create in such an authentic way that you feel transported to a circa-1968 coffee-house in Harvard Square.

"Wates is a British-born songwriter who moved to the U.S. about five years ago; he has worked in jazz, but he’s so masterly on acoustic folk guitar that it’s hard to imagine him doing anything else. With Joe’s Cafe he has written more than a dozen songs telling the stories of ordinary Americans, most of whom have faced one trouble or another (war, the Dust Bowl, the fight for civil rights).

"Some are right out of the headlines (the story of a police shooting in Queens in 2006), and others are out of history books (the lovely, moving song about Maj. Robert Gould Shaw’s African-American regiment during the Civil War).

"Throughout, Amend’s light, shimmery voice may remind you of the young Judy Collins, and the sweet combination of that voice and Wates’ guitar draws any tension right out of you... The musicality in this little revue makes it a breath of fresh air among the din of the Fringe."

Remaining shows:
Wednesday May 25, 8:40 p.m.
Friday May 27, 5:15 p.m.
Saturday May 28, 6:50 p.m.

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.)

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

Ectophiles' Guide review: 'A brilliant album all told' 

A new review

"The new record by Rupert Wates has a neat, sometimes jazzy sound and some inspired songs. The ambitious album shares stories of ordinary people in the U.S in the last century. He runs the gamut from comedians to serial killers and never wavers once. The vocals are handled by Wates himself and guest singers. Gretchen Witt acquits herself well on "Sally's Farm" and Ashley Gonzalez is superb on "The skies of South Dakota." It's a brilliant album all told."

New album review of "Joe's Cafe" from ROOTSTIME: 'Unreservedly recommended' 

Below is a new review of the album, by Lisael in ROOTSTIME, an online mag in the Netherlands, translated from the Dutch:

"Rupert Wates was born and bred in London, a full time musician since 1992. In 2001 he moved to Paris, and in 2006 settled in the USA. In London he worked mainly as an accompanist for Jazz singers. During his time in Paris he emerged as a solo artist, bringing out CDs regularly. This is his fourth.

"We are dealing with a concept album. Here in 'JOE'S CAFE,' Wates issues a welcome and himself takes the role of Joe. There follow stories typical of a cafe in the '60s, about the people who frequent the cafe, and taking inspiration from Paul Auster's True Tales Of American Life.

"Wates has a soft voice which suits his gentle folky material. His voice is reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot. But he assigns the roles of the different people to other singers. Thus twelve different vocalists perform the songs, making for some variation while still preserving unity. Wates himself sings three songs. Among the names of his collaborators only that of Craig Bickhardt rings a bell.

"Some numbers stand out by means of their different flavors. There is 'Snow In New York,' a jazzy number sung by Cassendre Xavier, a lady with a voice recalling that of Cassandra Wilson. Also in a jazzy vein is the powerful 'The Voodoo Doll' sung by Safiya Fredericks. 'Dick And Delores' is the story of a white man who marries a black woman, who cannot accompany him to cafes, leading to a legal battle. This story is accompanied by some great violin and recalls the work of Tim O Brien. I may mention also that the cover comprises an illustration of a lighted cafe window, with a mixed race couple outside (and presumably forbidden to enter).

"The best number is 'The Skies Of South Dakota', sung virtually acapella by an assured Ashley Gonzalez. Next best is a close fight between 'Dick And Delores' and 'Days Of Mercy', notable for beautiful harmonies and an infectious rhythm. The songs go from introspective to swaggering, from sad to happy. As examples the sad tale of 'Stand Up Comedians' and the gypsy swing of 'A Sunny Afternoon In The Bronx' are polar opposites. The album ends with a very accessible song of cheer raising a glass in toast to friendship.

"Wates has given a concert performance of the album featuring all the musicians at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. This concert can be seen on YOUTUBE, so you can check out the quality for yourself. I myself can unreservedly recommend the CD to anyone who likes to bask in beautiful stories set to music."

From Victoria, BC, we find a final word from Indianapolis 

As we wrap up our stand in Victoria, BC, and begin the journey to San Francisco, thought we'd share a last-minute review we discovered by Katelyn Coyne in Bravo Indianapolis:

"Joe's Cafe is the first and only concert show I've seen thus far in the 2010 IndyFringe. Singer-songwriter Rupert Wates presents an evening of original compositions based on tidbits of news and historical information he has collected over the years. Paired with two outstanding female voices, Wates picks away at the guitar with incredible skill. From an homage to the late great George Carlin to a dangerous retelling of police brutality in Queens, NY, Wates creates an experience that hearkens back to the hay day of folk music...a thoroughly enjoyable evening of toe tapping music..." (Katelyn Coyne, Bravo Indianapolis)

Nuvo in Indianapolis: 'Warm, witty, tender, poignant...' 

Here's a Fringe review by Rita Kohn of Nuvo
Joe's Cafe
Rupert Wates and Friends, New York
4 1/2 stars

"This warm, witty, tender, poignant program of fifteen songs cuts across the U.S.landscape to share stories of ordinary people and fleeting moments made memorable by Rupert Wates' razor-sharp, insightful touch as a composer and lyricist. Emotions in the songs, and their delivery by Wates, Stacey Lorin and Valorie Miller, are nuanced. It's a welcome respite to sit in Joe's Cafe, feeling the strong melodies in your bones and absorbing the messages in your gut. You'll take something powerfully important away – we connect best when we feel the story. Take time for Joe's Cafe."

Indianapolis Fringe Festival: perfect venue, nice audiences and a 'Run to see it' recommendation 

We've had some good shows here so far - the venue is perfect and the audiences are very nice. Received this review yesterday:"Joe's Cafe was a wonderful musical experience. A 'concept album' of the first magnitude...touching songs, wonderful guitar work and angelic voices...truly memorable and ... run to see it!" (Bill Bourus, Indianapolis Fringe Festival audience reviews, August 24, 2010)

Final Minneapolis show tonight, five-star review 

We'll be performing the final Joe's Cafe show in the Minneapolis Fringe Festival tonight (August 14) at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 8:30pm. We were pleased this morning to see the following five-star review:

Bought the Album, Too

"Ready for a Fringe change of pace, I found this a great evening of well-penned, intelligent songs about real lives. Each song story was complete, and several were especially terrific, leading me to buy the CD. Don't remember the titles, but toasting the lion and the lamb is an anthem we need this political season, as is the one about the mixed-race marriage, and the tribute to George Carlin. Between-song patter was minimal in this driven set, but maybe one less song would have allowed us more time to mull after each song ended. Four voices, guitar, keyboard, even a hint of Joni Mitchell." (Jon Skaalen, Minneapolis Fringe Reviews, August 13, 2010)