In 1960, Lena Spencer opened a small, grassroots coffeehouse on Phila Street in downtown Saratoga Springs. It was a time in America when a coffeehouse could be a focal point for radical new ideas and emerging artists. Caffè Lena's humble stage regularly welcomed musicians including Bob Dylan, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Don McLean. Quickly, Caffè Lena took its place among the nation's foremost incubators of an American folk movement that inspired a generation of musicians, artists, and thinkers and a country in need of a new vision of equality, freedom, and understanding.
Fortunately for posterity, camera shutters were often snapping in time to the music, and so an intimate visual record of Caffè Lena's early years exists. Now, thanks to years of dedicated digging by the Caffè Lena History Project—the time has come to share this treasure trove of authentic and rare Americana with the world. Caffè Lena: Inside America's Legendary Folk Music Coffeehouse brings more than 200 never before seen, evocative images and stories to the public. Early 1960s photographs of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger and modern-day images of Rufus Wainwright and Patty Larkin blend with rare memorabilia and an oral history derived from more than 100 original interviews of artists who have graced Caffè Lena's stage over the decades, including Ani DiFranco, Utah Phillips, Dave Van Ronk, Spalding Gray, and other luminaries of the folk, blues, jazz, and theater worlds.
This exclusive time capsule chronicling the heyday of Caffè Lena—now the country's oldest continuously operational folk music coffeehouse—provides an insightful look at the many artists whose poetic lyrics cast a mesmerizing spell over a generation, and who remain beloved today.
Our event will include images from the book, a conversation with Jocelyn Arem of the Caffe Lena History Project, and a short set by bluegrass artists Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line, a sneak preview of their performance at Caffe Lena later that evening. Click here for more information.