It's difficult to imagine a coffee shop without an interchangeable stable of singer-songwriters strumming soulfully in the corner. With characters like Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) on Friends, Hollywood has pegged latte-sipping loafers as the ultimate acoustic guitar loving crowd. But the Flying M Coffeegarage in downtown Nampa is trying to change that.
"The word 'coffee' in the title has given people a lot of wrong impressions, whether it's artists or potential concert-goers. It's not really been verbalized, but I can tell that there's a slight stigma there," explains Nathan Walker, talent booker for Flying M Coffeegarage.
Walker, who has been booking bands at the Flying M for just more than a year and a half, is working hard to establish the Coffeegarage as a legitimate rock venue. As one of only a few all-ages stops between Salt Lake City and Seattle or Portland, Ore., the Coffeegarage has been drawing in an increasing number of touring bands looking to bypass the beer-swilling bar crowd.
"I like a variety of music, so I book a variety of music. But it tends to be more in the indie-rock vein. We don't really do hardcore. We've done some alt-country but not much," says Walker. "We've had some really great bluegrass bands, but not too much pop country."
In September 2008, owners Lisa and Kevin Meyers changed the Coffeegarage's layout, tearing out the enclosed gift shop in the back room and moving it to the front of the store. They purchased a high-quality PA system and constructed a raised stage to better handle the types of acts they're now courting.
"It's just taken a long time to get going and get everyone on the same page," says Walker. "The PA system we have now rivals any of the mid-level bars or venues in Boise or Nampa. The garage doors are kind of a problem, but we've experimented with a couple of different ways of using curtains [to absorb the sound]."
Though the eclectic, high-ceilinged space—sprinkled with old velour couches, scuffed wooden tables and folding theater seats—creates a nontraditional acoustic landscape, bands like Hailey's Finn Riggins have learned to adjust their set to better fit the environment.
"I like the Flying M in good weather when they can open up the garage doors," says Eric Gilbert, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for Finn Riggins. "It offers a different environment and thus we use the opportunity to play different tunes that fit more of a listening crowd as opposed to a dancing/rock crowd."
Part of what has turned a coffee shop in Nampa into such an appealing venue for touring and local acts alike is Walker's musician-oriented approach. As a bass player for local indie band The Invasion, Walker knows what it is that bands hope to take away from a performance: new fans, a little gas money and, if they're lucky, some free pastries.
"I'm a musician, so a big part of how I approach this is just to try to treat the bands and artists as well as possible," notes Walker. "And even if there's not a ton of people here, that they still have a great experience."
In addition to Finn Riggins, some other well-known local acts that have graced the stage at Flying M in Nampa include Hillfolk Noir, Le Fleur and MayerForce Academy. This summer, the Garage also hosted a performance by Mt. Eerie, a Washington-based band fronted by ex-Microphones member Phil Elverum, and Pattern Is Movement, a chamber rock act from North Carolina featuring Daniel Hart, a musician who plays with St. Vincent and John Vanderslice.
"There are a lot of people in Nampa/Caldwell that if they realize that there's viable, good-quality entertainment here, that maybe they wouldn't have to drive to Boise," says Walker. "My vision, too, is that we could create a spot for local artists in this area where they would be able to create an intimate and great artistic community that has been kind of lacking here."
With a handful of up-and-coming local bands slated to play in November and December, Flying M Coffeegarage is most definitely helping nurture Nampa's budding music community. This Saturday, Nov. 22, Georgia-based soulful rapper Heath McNease will be joined by local indie-pop lads The First Ladies and Apple Horse. And though the nights are getting colder, it's not time to retire that gold spandex unitard quite yet: Walker is still wrapping up details for a sweaty electro dance party on Friday, Dec. 12.
"Any venue in any town willing to host touring bands is a huge asset to a musical community, especially if it's all ages," says Gilbert. "Kids in Nampa are able to be exposed to lots of underground music because of it, and that will go a long way in inspiring them to create exciting music of their own."
1314 Second St. S., Nampa. For more information on upcoming shows, visit myspace.com/flyingm or call 208-467-5533. To book a show or volunteer for the Flying M Coffeegarage street team, e-mail Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.