For St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, the relationship is not quite so one directional as ten years ago the church opened the doors to its fellowship hall to host live music with their Coffee House Live at St. Andrew's series. With each passing year, the events have grown in numbers of supporters and artists willing to play.
On Thursday, November 2,Coffee House Live will mark the anniversary with a special performance by Texas legend, Alejandro Escovedo. Organizer Pete Owens began the Coffee House Live series along with his wife Donna and pastor Jeff Smith, all three being huge music lovers.
“When we started we just had no idea whether anybody would respond or whether we could last a year and then suddenly here we are ten years and it's really a testament to the music fans of Houston that have found us and supported us and so we've kept going,” says Pete Owens.
When the series began, organizers were looking for a way to combine the church’s desire to engage in community outreach with a desire to provide the experience of live music to Houstonians in a small to medium sized venue for free.
"It's really a testament to the music fans of Houston that have found us and supported us and so we've kept going,”
“We wanted people to be able to come. If they don't have any money, they're welcome to come in. If they can donate, there is a donation box but there's absolutely no obligation so that was element number one for us. We really wanted to open great music to anybody regardless of financial ability.”
As much as they wanted visitors to feel no pressure to pay, they also did not want attendees to feel that they were being swayed to join the church as that is not the mission of the concert series.
“We have definitely had folks who have joined the church which is not the primary goal, really it’s for the community,” says Owens.
Their first show began humbly with Owens describing the late great Johnny Boy performing with Milton Hopkins for essentially no money and producing his own show running sound on the church’s PA.
“He did it for almost nothing and I was embarrassed that I couldn't give him more but he really helped us launch this thing and get folks into the concept of this early on.”
With little to no budget for marketing, the series has depended on word of mouth from music fans and artists alike to push the good word of what they have going on to not only continue to survive but also grow.
Since then Coffee House Live has gone on to host artists like Joe Ely, Chuck Prophet, Guy Forysth and more with organizers being able to present bigger and bigger artists as the generosity of patrons has also increased.
“We tried to treat artists really well and differently. We are a listening room so a lot of artists spoke well of us,” says Owens, who has also counted on the support from KPFT to push their series. “We just have support across the board.”
The celebration of their ten year anniversary comes at a time of transition for organizers as they have decided to pause the series for the time being as organizers find themselves busy with their own personal lives and feel that their initial reasons for starting the series are no longer an issue for the city.
"When we started we felt there was a venue size gap that we were trying to fill and now it's sort of over filled. Also, the world is changing and we are still adapting to a post pandemic thing," explains Owens. Organizers do have the hope of returning one day and they felt that closing out for now with someone who carries the magnitude of Escovedo was fitting.
“We didn't want to fade away, we wanted to go out big for the time being. We didn't want to just dwindle like a lot of alternative concert series have.” Though they are taking a step away from organizing the biannual series, the hope is to return to curate special events as opportunities arise.
“We don't feel like we are leaving this city missing something because there are a lot more opportunities for music listening which is great,” says Owens reflecting on the difference in the city’s musical landscape since they began.
“We love live music. We are going to see people out at shows. I always refer to a Bob Marley lyric, you want to ensure that there are places where people can experience live music because for us live music, when it hits you feel no pain.”
Ten Year Anniversary of Coffee House Live at St. Andrew's will host Alejandro Escovedo on Thursday, November 2 at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 5308 Buffalo Speedway, doors at 7 p.m., free to attend but donations welcome.