Black Dog Cafe, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

I’m sure the coffee tastes better with some good tunes

Last week I went to the Mermaid Inn in Rye, a pub dating back to 1420, with Norman cellars dating back to 1156. It was my first visit so with expectations low I was overcome with history and beauty upon entering into the main bar with all its oak panelling, large fire, low ceilings and paintings of Tudor aristocracy. A welcoming ambience, quiet, hushed with enough hum of chatter to create comfort, and sitting into a deep set wooden chair with my Pint of Harveys I felt quite grand. All I needed was Henry James to pop in or some sort of royalty to add to my submersion in an old old world. On my second sip of my Pint glass a drum beat appeared in the background then some bass and the sound of rhianna suddenly put me back into 2012 and my world was broken.

Dear, oh dear I muttered. Yet across eateries and drinking holes all over the country the choice of music to play to enhance a customer’s experience is dire. To me it’s not really that hard, play some good music, or don’t play any at all. When we set up the Cafe’ my number one thing was great coffee, then great music. (my wife will disagree with me on this…food what food!) I mean yes I like my tunes, but music permeates all barriers, it gets under your skin and draws on all our emotions. Its power is overwhelming, and when you have this powerful emotive tool why wouldn’t you use it in your eatery to great an ambience your customers want to spend some time in.

So what makes the playlist at the Black Dog. Well Otis Redding and Etta James headline the soulful grooves; we have Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III and Tom Waits for the stories, and Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison for the classic toe tappers. Ray La Montagne in the morning and Fleet Foxes in the afternoon. Paul Kelly and Dave Graney for the Australiana factor, Crowded House for the Kiwis. Stevie Wonder for genius and Rodrigo y Gabriela for the most amazing latino guitar licks you’ve ever heard. So with this in mind the music plays, it meanders around the Cafe’, it falls into customers ears, sometimes it rebounds and falls into someone else’s, sometimes a song maybe not be liked, it’s discussed, it creates debate.

And with this I find the most pleasure, as the music has become a regular subject in the Cafe’ to the point now where customers bring me in C.D’s  to listen to and some then feature on our playlist. The Black Keys, Bombino and Richard Thomson are all artists I discovered through customers that are now played regularly in the Cafe’. So I suppose my message is to the Mermaid Inn in Rye as I’d like to go back. If you’re going to play some music how about Blue Train by John Coltrane or some Billie Holliday to go with those grand oak chairs.

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