Cafe Stritch, which is partnering with C2SV for a local music showcase, is leading the charge to revitalize San Jose's music scene.
Last week, local artist, musician and graphic designer Ben Henderson took down the plastic banner—which had hung above Cafe Stritch’s main entrance for more than a year—and replaced it with a hand-painted sign featuring the venue’s name and logo. Next week, the first of three shows booked in coordination with “boutique” production company (((folk YEAH!))) will kick off at the SoFA bar and restaurant. And in September, Cafe Stritch will host the two-night C2SV Local Music Showcase, featuring a handful of San Jose indie bands, including Darto, Dinners and No Maps.
Those three events may seem unconnected, but to Maxwell Borkenhagen, artistic director of Cafe Stritch, they are all indicators of something much larger: a resurgent live music scene in downtown San Jose.
As far as Borkenhagen is concerned, it’s impossible for any city to have a thriving arts scene without great live music. And as artistic director of Cafe Stritch, Borkenhagen says he feels it is “his responsibility” to try his damnedest to resurrect the “glory days” of the ’80s and ’90s, when bands like Sublime, Nirvana and Green Day played at legendary venues, such as The Cactus Club, Ajax Lounge and F/X.
“The music thing is key to me,” Borkenhagen explains. “Music is my life, it’s my passion.”
He doesn’t want to live in a place without it. Nor does he want to move to find it. He is fiercely loyal to his hometown. “I’m from San Jose, I live in San Jose, I want to live in San Jose,” he says. “We’ve got huge potential. We just need to show a lot of the people that live in the suburbs surrounding San Jose that it’s worth going downtown.”
Since Borkenhagen’s family rebranded the space formerly known as Eulipia, he has been working tirelessly to book shows that not only bring patrons through the door, but which also carry a certain level of cultural cachet. “I want to show the world that San Jose doesn’t suck,” Borkenhagen says—straight faced, without the slightest hint of irony. The idea is to get people stoked about going out to see live music in San Jose again.
That means bringing in national, critically acclaimed acts, such as Built to Spill—who played a blistering “secret” show at Stritch last April—as well as working with the taste-making (((folkYEAH!))) Presents production company, which has booked three highly anticipated shows at Borkenhagen’s SoFA restaurant and bar this month, featuring Sonny and the Sunsets (Aug. 13), The Fresh and Onlys (Aug. 19), and The Entrance Band (Aug. 25).
It also means championing local talent, which is why Borkenhagen, is working in coordination with C2SV (Creative Convergence Silicon Valley) to present two nights of local indie and punk, Sept. 12-13) at Cafe Stritch.
The C2SV Local Music Showcase will feature Darto, Dinners and Plume on Friday, Sept. 12.
No Maps, Breathing Patterns and Li Xi will play on Saturday, Sept. 13.
Each night of the showcase will provide a peek into the diverse array of young indie bands coming out of the South Bay—proving that in a region better known for cover bands and DJs spinning Top 40, there are still plenty of musicians pushing themselves to create new and interesting tunes. There’s the artfully fractured noise- and post-rock of Darto and Breathing Patterns, the chugging, fuzzy indie of Dinners and No Maps, the bouncing, poppy, garage-punk of Plume. Li Xi—the only non-San Jose band in the bunch—crafts reverb-soaked, psychedelic beats of Li Xi.
Borkenhagen is very excited about the upcoming (((folk YEAH))) shows. “I’ve been a huge fan of Folk Yeah for a long time,” he says of the production company. “The bands that Folk Yeah works with are my dream bands that I’d love to book and work with and play in San Jose.”
He’s also pumped on the great local talent he’s been able to book at Stritch since it opened last March, as well as the support he’s felt in the community for live rock & roll shows. “There’s a lot of like minded peope in San Jose right now that realize that if you don’t like where the culture is at, you’ve got to build something,” he says, adding that he is keeping his fingers crossed that the trend continues. “I don’t know why so much is happening now, but it definitely feels like we’re on the rise again.”