Home » Café Artiste: Ocean Grove’s Weekly Listening Room

Café Artiste: Ocean Grove’s Weekly Listening Room

by Sarah Griesbach
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Every Wednesday, Janet Rothstein assembles a hot set of singer-songwriters to present their original music to the attentive audiences who come out each week to Café Artiste at the Jersey Shore Arts Center, located at 66 South Main Street in Ocean Grove. Read on to learn all about this fabulous musical event program that is now in its seventh year of highlighting established and emerging talents in a cozy professional venue.

cafe artiste music venue ocean grove new jersey

The Founding Tale

Though Janet grew up on Long Island, she spent the majority of her childhood summers at a house in Ocean Grove. Summers at the shore began in June and went on languidly until school resumed, with her father arriving for weekends and returning to work in New York each Monday. That era of Ocean Grove history included a lot of now infamous restrictions, including a “No wheel, shall turn on Sunday” rule that applied even to bicycles.

cafe artiste music venue ocean grove new jersey janet

It also included what sounded like wildly extravagant musical theater performances directed by Ocean Grove local Dexter Davis. Janet played a new prized role each year. She recalls the summer she was a chipmunk, the pirate summer, the gingerbread kid in Hansel + Gretel, and Cinderella’s cruel stepsister. For Janet, the shore and the performing arts were always indelibly linked.

Read More: Locals Art Space: An Art-Dedicated Community Hub in Asbury Park

cafe artiste music venue ocean grove new jersey entertainment

The opportunity to be part of the area’s arts legacy came when Janet’s father, Herb Herbst, got involved in saving the old Neptune Public High School. Janet retired from careers in both modeling and film and was already involved in efforts to bring emerging talents to new audiences in NYC. Her passion had increasingly become oriented around people producing original music. She looked at the building her father had only just begun to resuscitate and wondered, “Where can the art of songwriting exist in this building?” The very special third-floor space where her venue is now situated spoke to her as soon as she saw it. Her father recognized the value of her heart’s project and gave her his full support. Sadly, Herb died in June 2017, a mere month before Janet opened the Café Artiste stage to the first of a number that now exceeds 1200 singer-songwriters. Janet’s work bringing the Listening Room the success that it currently holds is tied indelibly to her memory of him.

Janet Sets the Stage

Janet Rothstein has an indefatigable love for original music and it shows in every aspect of Café Artiste’s Wednesday lineups. Janet and her devoted support team set up candlelit cafe tables and turn the lights down low to create a warm, theatrical glow. All the venues’ seats face a raised stage where the magic happens. Janet and the terrific volunteers who bring each concert to life have scrutinized every part of the listening experience to ensure the audience is focused and eminently entertained. It is, after all, a listening room. Quiet must be maintained. And so, to that end, the $3 treats and drinks served at each weekly affair are chosen especially for their silent consumption — no clattering flatware, no crackling chip bags. The ice machine is unplugged for the two-hour duration of each show as just one more of the invisible efforts to set the stage for a memorable night.

In addition to the singer-songwriters working their magic at the center of the stage, a visual artist is invited to create artwork as the concert takes shape. These featured artists are invited by Janet herself and are set up on the left side of the stage.

cafe artiste music venue ocean grove new jersey art

Invited artists are often pulled from the many private art studios that share the Jersey Shore Art Center (JSAC) building with Café Artiste. Their artistic styles and backgrounds are as varied as those of the singer-songwriters inspiring them as they draw, paint, or perhaps sculpt.

Throughout each listening room event, five or six singer-songwriters perform their original music in 15-minute sets. Most sets are primarily acoustic, sometimes with looped harmonies, and occasionally light percussion. Performers of all songwriting styles and genres are welcome and every show includes a variety of sounds from a diversity of artists.

Janet’s theory is that if jazz, blues, country, classic rock, or folk is not your cup of tea, you can still enjoy a 15-minute set knowing that what comes next will be unlike whatever you’re hearing now. She tries to mix experienced musicians with novices and purposefully places performers in an order she hopes will ensure that everyone stands out. And her methodology works: each concert night brings a sampling of sounds that provoke a totally different mood as the artist’s rotation goes on from one deeply felt performance to another.

Before the show begins, Café Artiste volunteer — and musician in her own right — Mary Ann Conway interviews each of the songwriters and that week’s featured visual artist in a live-streamed interview called Café Talk. It’s part of the bonding experience that is inevitable for each collection of Café performers. The door opens at 6:30PM and the show starts at 7PM. Janet, quite comfortable in the spotlight on the main stage, welcomes her audience and introduces the visual artist and each songwriter with her excellent backstories that convey a bit of context about each. The performances are all live-streamed on the Café Artiste Facebook page and posted to be viewed in perpetuity.

Artful Anticipation

Janet has big dreams for the future of Café Artiste and her work in the JSAC complex. She envisions a songwriting conference with workshops professional development tools and opportunities to build career ties. Janet is a great booster of others. She is not an agent, though the opportunity she provides the artists performing on the Café Artiste stage has, for many, led to further breaks that come from exposure. The live concert recordings are a terrific tool for performers to self-promote and Janet believes that a podcast program would be a natural add-on to what Café Artiste already does.

cafe artiste music venue ocean grove new jersey singer

To that end, Janet hopes to welcome volunteers with a plethora of talents she herself might not hold. She quickly points to the years of devoted support by stage manager Paul During as crucial to the listening room’s many successes. She gushes similarly about the invaluable work of Lisa Jubin Regan and Mary Klawetter, the visual artists who run the quiet treats kitchen throughout each show; Mike McDevitt. the sound engineer; Ann Marie Giambattista, the creative resource volunteer; and Shirlee Bunting, who wanes the door each week. Even with her dedicated team of volunteers, Café Artist could use some techies. A podcasting expert, someone with professional film equipment, and a social media magician would all serve needed roles.

See More: There’s a New Comedy Club in Downtown Jersey City

As Janet works to produce a strong program that honors both audience members and songwriters, she looks for what else she can do to make the listening room a success. That it is a success, exactly as it is, can be attested to by all of the songwriters who walked into Café Artiste as individual performers but left as part of the cast of a two-hour show. As for the audience, one never knows who will walk onto that stage, but the experience of listening to each musician bring their life’s work to the stage is worth a pilgrimage from wherever you are.

read more button

also appears in

0 comment