Coffee Culture

Java Joe’s last official promotion at the Café Libertalia on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest was Bushwalla’s performance on Saturday, July 17. For the past year, Joe Flammini had an arrangement with Libertalia owners Donna Orlando and Jesse Thomas to produce music events on the modest stage in the back corner of the internet café. The parting was amicable.

“He [Flammini] just felt that it was time for him to move on,” says Orlando.

No word yet as to where the venerable coffeehouse concert promoter will go next, but Orlando and Thomas say they are looking forward to booking their own music. While Flammini’s concert bills have included local singer-songwriters such as Jewel, Jason Mraz, Berkley Hart, Gregory Page, Steve Poltz, and Lisa Sanders, Orlando and Thomas are looking at booking jazz and classical acts.

“The difference in directions is that we’d like to have more variety,” says Orlando. “Otherwise, there’s not a particular direction.”

“Also,” says Thomas, “we’d like to attract a younger crowd. There are not a lot of places that young people can go to.” Orlando and Thomas have thus far booked the Latin jazz trio Todo Mundo, May Standing Still, and local jazz artist Chris Klich.

Café Libertalia was named after a libertarian colony said to have been founded by anarchist pirates on the Madagascar coast in the late 1600s. This choice of theme comes as no surprise when one peruses the list of nonmusic events held at the café. Orlando and Thomas allot weekly space for debate and discussion groups and community forums on topics such as free-market economics. The café’s website links to state and local Libertarian party sites and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, among other political forums. New Mexico governor Gary Johnson was a recent Libertalia guest speaker.

Orlando, a native of Brooklyn, says the café can hold around 100 guests. She says that music and entertainment promoters are welcome (Mitch Feingold, for example, hosts comedy on Wednesday nights). “We don’t have anything to do with whatever they book.” She says the café offers promoters a split of whatever comes through the door. “We just passed our two-year mark in business,” she says.

A former engineering technician, Thomas says the café was already running as a side venture before a work slowdown forced layoffs at Peregrine Systems, the company he worked for. Now, with Orlando, he is a full-time barista and coffee-culture promoter. “This,” he says, “is an entirely different career for me.”

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