For years now, we have been hearing about the Blue Moon Coffee House on Webster Street in Rockland. Once a month, Rockland favorite son, Mark Gardner, and his family host an evening of incredible music, friends, fellowship and refreshments inside one of Rockland’s architectural treasures, the Channing Church. The atmosphere is friendly and casual as new visitors are welcomed by regulars who quickly make you feel right at home. A small area is set up to dispense Fair Trade Coffee and a wide variety of home-made goodies and snacks. Everything sells for a dollar or less. The Blue Moon holds a raffle at each event, giving away fantastic gift items that are donated by some of the guests.
Mark Gardner started the Blue Moon Coffee House to try to raise awareness and revenues for the never-ending repairs and upkeep on the ancient building. What has resulted is one of the best music venues on the South Shore for world-class folk, bluegrass and light rock shows. Although the Coffee House doesn’t make a lot of money, they have brought a fortune in raw talent to the family-oriented events.
Gardner is an avid Blue Grass fan and musician. Mark and his family attend Blue Grass Festivals all over the country in their RV. Gardner somehow attracts some of these great acts to come to Rockland from all over the country, and even Canada, for the small fee the coffee house can muster to pay them.
This week’s Blue Moon Coffee House headliner was Jo Henley. Jo Henley is a Boston-based roots-rock band formed by longtime musical collaborators Andy Campolieto and Ben Lee, and is known for its exciting blend of rock, folk, country, and bluegrass which their fans affectionately refer to as “new roots.” Inspired by everything from Hank Williams to The Rolling Stones to Phish, Campolieto and Lee, along with drummer Mike Dingley and bassist Kent Stephens, combine traditional roots music with modern rock to create a sound all their own. Live, Jo Henley shows are spirited, high-energy events that showcase their carefully-crafted songs and sparkling instrumental prowess.
These guys had me hooked from the first song. Andy Campolieto has greatness written all over him. His original lyrics are beautiful literary gems incorporating history, emotion and pure prose. Campolito and Lee expertly set the essays to music in a way that forever connects you to the songs the first time you hear them. Andy’s style is a musical hybrid that blends the best of Tom Petty, Hank Williams and John Denver into one performer. He is able to seamlessly weave glaring guitar riffs with gentle rolling chords and Dylan-like lyrics. Ben Lee is a stunning guitarist. Having a front row seat, we were in awe of the talents and ability of this guy. He used only one guitar, an electric acoustic, that he made chirp, cry, sing and wail in an effortless display of digital gymnastics that changed the sound from folk to steel to mandolin to Les Paul. Several times the crowd cheered in the middle of songs after his amazing riffs. All of Jo Henley’s songs are laced in smooth-flowing, sophisticated guitar licks that showcase this very special guitarist. Jo Henley displayed incredible chemistry on stage, putting on a stellar performance that had the Blue Moon crowd applauding wildly and shouting for an encore. Who would have thought that this type of world-class entertainment would be available right here in town for a seven dollar donation fee?
The Blue Moon Coffee House offers “Open Mic” in between the band’s sets. Mark Gardner himself, along with two other talented people, got up on stage. ”The Chickens” impressed the crowd with two fantastic songs. I was amazed to hear Gardner sing and play guitar. He was really good. He looked and sounded like Merle Haggard, as he and his amazing fiddle player and Blue Moon sound engineer, did a beautiful job along with Tic Tac, their percussionist and singer. David and Becky Haletky and the songs were “For Today” by Jessica Lea Mayfield and “Stone Walls” by Three Tall Pines. The child who played was Sydney Paul. The adults who also played the open mic were Joe Herosy and Ellin Duffy. Ellin is from Rockland.
The Blue Moon Coffee House is a great take. Check the website for more details. The next two shows promise to be outstanding also.
The Blue Moon Coffee House – Making Rockland a great place to stomp.