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Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Music Over Coffee

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Milwaukee-area native Joe Holland is one busy individual these days. In addition to working at Flanner’s Home Entertainment in Brookfield and part-time for the Wisconsin Athletic Club, Holland is co-manager of The Coffee House, an acoustic music and poetry joint located on the corner of 19th Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Holland, a singer-songwriter himself, recently sat down to talk about the establishment.

What kind of music do you play and who are some of your influences?

I am primarily a singer-songwriter sort of fellow; acoustic 12-string is my instrument of choice. My music has been changing for a while; it was very simple and then it became a little more complex and now it is getting interesting. As influences go, it sort of follows the path of the people that I have listened to through the years. So initially there was some flavoring by John Denver and that was followed by Jim Croce and that was followed by Cat Stevens and that led into Dan Fogelberg.

Who have been your favorite performers over the years at The Coffee House, and why?

Oh my. Well, I do have a fondness for the many different names under which Tom and Barb Webber have performed. They have probably worked under six different group names, and sometimes when they have certain particular players with them, they are that other group. They do that to distinguish who is doing what when. They have maybe five different musicians who each play with three different groups. You have to begin to look at who is here today and [say], “OK, now we are doing this material ’cause we’re this band.”

The Coffee House is connected with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Lutheran Campus Ministry. What roles do these organizations and religion as a whole play at The Coffee House?

Very little. All religions, all faiths, everything that doesn’t involve blowing stuff up, are welcome… The church provides us a place to exist and we do, legally, as far as I understand, operate under their tax number. We are a nonprofit and they let us do what we do. We do give a percentage of the door to the church and there is a food pantry that operates centrally between three or four of the churches, I believe. Donations have been so down with the economy doing what it’s doing, that we have just begun accepting food donations at every Coffee House event so that we can hopefully restock that pantry a bit.

One of the best things about The Coffee House is that it seems to inspire people to constantly come back. Why is that?

I think because of its uniqueness. It is a very relaxing place and people feel comfortable here. Much like you might have a place where you like stopping for coffee, it just kind of grows on you.

Joe Holland | Photo by Corey Hengen