Like a lot of places in the Valley, The Black Dog Cafe in Snoqualmie features live music. What makes the downtown Snoqualmie restaurant, and this year’s winner for Best Place for Live Music stand out, though, is both the amount and range of that music. Shows are scheduled almost every day of the week, including Sunday brunch performances and a Wednesday night open mic tradition that’s continued for 22 years. The bands that perform there are local favorites such as The Winterlings and Strong Sun Moon, and often, national and regional acts on tour.
“We get a lot of travelling bands,” said Cristie Coffing, co-owner of The Black Dog with her husband, Greg Ballmer and sister, Anna Boranian. “They’ll hit us up for a Thursday night show and go to the bigger venues in Seattle on Saturday.”
For instance, Maxwell Hughes, formerly of The Lumineers, plays the Black Dog with his band, Edison, on Thursday, May 25.
What makes The Black Dog a popular stop for bands of all sizes is, as far as Coffing can tell, a combination of things. The small venue is intimate — “We can seat about 40 to 45 people, so we just pack ‘em in,” says Coffing, and it also has good sound, thanks to the efforts of sound technician Mike Antone.
“One of the bands that was here told us… if a band likes a place, thinks they’ve been treated well, had good sound mixing, they tell other bands about it” she said. “It’s really just word of mouth, through the music business.”
The Black Dog is open to all types of music, too.
“We try to focus on original singer-songwriters,” Coffing said, “but we’ve done everything from folk to rock to death metal… just recently, we started getting in a lot of bluegrass music.”
The indie rock Edison show will be one of the few for which the Black Dog charges a cover fee; most shows are free.
“Usually it’s just ‘donate to the band,’” said Coffing, “We have donation envelopes and a jar at the door.”
The Black Dog also keeps its kitchen open late on music nights, serving dinners until 9 p.m., desserts and lighter fare after that.
Wednesday nights are also pretty special events at the Black Dog, when musicians and their supporters gather for open mic events.
“The thing I like about our open mic is we get really young people, like age 13, on up to 75, and it’s nice to see them bond,” said Coffing.
Music is a shared bond of all those performers, but Coffing notes that the Black Dog isn’t just about music.
“Actually, we do all the arts, visual, literary, music, drama…” she said, then listed a half-dozen workshops the business has recently hosted or will soon host, including pottery making, harmonica playing and play writing.
“Our goal is to cultivate the arts in our community and wage peace in the Valley,” she added.
Find the full schedule of Black Dog events at www.blackdogsnoqualmie.com, or find The Black Dog Snoqualmie on Facebook.
For the full results in the Best of the Valley voting, visit http://valleyrecord.secondstreetapp.com/l/Best-of-the-Valley-2017.