Longtime open mic landmark changing things up
2611 Congress Street, Old Town
Java Joe has backed away, but a longtime friend has stepped up to keep the music going under a new stage banner, the Backdrop.
Joe Flammini, who has showcased homegrown singer/songwriters including Jewel, Jason Mraz, Steve Poltz, and Gregory Page as they honed their craft locally before breaking out into international success, has walked away from the namesake music venue he launched 27 years ago.
Java Joe’s began in Poway in 1991, moving to Ocean Beach in 1994 (where it reopened at a different location in 2000, hosting Jason Mraz for two live album recordings). The acoustic music mecca has also been based in Hillcrest, Mission Valley, at Sunset Temple in North Park, in the Ideal Hotel downtown, and there was a shortlived Java Joe's Pub on El Cajon Boulevard circa 2004-2005 (previously Kelly's Pub, later the State House). In 2016, Java Joe's moved to its newest location at 2611 Congress Street, in a historic Old Town building.
Health issues have mandated that Flammini back off from operating Java Joe's on a day-to-day basis. Chance Boren has made a commitment to keep the dream alive.
“I’ve been working with Joe for 22 years,” says Boren. “Although to some he was a notorious crank, he was always a mentor to me.”
The upshot: Boren took over the business as of October 1 and renamed it the Backdrop. “We were transitioning throughout the month of September. This is entirely new to me.” Boren says he has applied to get a license to eventually sell beer and wine. “I don’t know the exact time frame on that.”
Boren is a longtime friend of Mraz. “Jason actually played for our first full show October 6." Boren oversees the comic book collection that is part of the live show of the Digital Lizards of Doom, a local sci-fi nerdcore rock group.
“Eventually, we would like to have music four nights a week including an open mic night and three other [showcase] nights," says Boren of the Backdrop. "But we also want to be more than a music venue. We want to be a center for the nerd community with game tournaments and sci-fi movies. For the month of October, we are showing classic old horror movies on Friday night.”
Boren says Joe himself will still be around to host a show or two each month. He says he's glad the Backdrop remains in the Old Town locale. “I love the tourists. On a Friday night, parking can be rough. But I love the feel of the building. It is all wood, and it has a giant tree in the middle of it. It’s part of the area called 'old town local' that was originally built as bungalows.”
- Saturday, October 20, 2018, 7:30 p.m.
2611 Congress Street,
Java Joe heritage artist Gregory Page performs Saturday October 20 at the Backdrop, under the Java Joe’s Presents banner. Other upcoming dates include Fully Patched (November 9), Ryan Dart (November 10), Ricky Giordano & Friends (November 11), and MC Flow & Her Highness Court (November 17).