Anyone who has been to Au Bon Pain lately has probably noticed the addition of a live musician on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Or, more likely, they haven’t.
Lindarose Burgos, an ABP shift supervisor, explained that the addition of live music is part of a larger effort — including more luxurious leather seating and new additions to the luminous pastry case, including pound cake, chocolate twists and brownies — to change the atmosphere and aesthetic appeal of the bakery café-cum-concert hall to make it more like its coffee shop competitors (apparently Koffee Too?’s intermittent, halfhearted attempts at live music fail to satisfy). But shop patrons don’t seem to realize, much less appreciate, these new additions to ABP’s ever-growing list of offerings. One customer, when asked his opinion of the new music, hadn’t even realized that the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar wasn’t coming from overhead speakers.
“The music doesn’t make any difference,” said Ned Hirschfeld ’08. Upon reflection, though, he added that while inconspicuous, the new music is an improvement from the tunes ABP used to play, which he and his friends described as “bizarre and distracting.”
Caitlin Macaulay, a senior at Quinnipiac University who regularly studies at ABP, echoed such sentiments. She described the unobtrusive music as “nice and relaxing” but said that people don’t really seem to notice it.
But the guitarist in question, Dave Veslocki MUS ’07, begs to differ.
“I’ve been offered wedding jobs, gigs at the British Art Gallery and other solo classical performances,” he said. “And a lot of people come regularly just to hear the music.”
And all this on top of the great salary and tips he brings in!
Veslocki is, thus far, the only musician to perform at the kitty-cornered cafe, and he sounds kind of like the Gypsy Kings at a luau. Up to this point ABP has restricted his repertoire to classical music only, which explains the predominance of Latin American inspired tunes (imagine an evening in Brazil or Paraguay with romantic Villa-Lobos tunes floating along a warm breeze). Veslocki said the owner asked for exclusively classical guitar at first because it’s a “less sonically threatening” form of music, and ABP hopes to experiment with this more docile tone and see how things go. Eventually though, Veslocki will be joined by saxophonists and jazz guitarists (which, he said, are so different from regular guitars they are practically different instruments), and perhaps the music will become more auditorily interesting. At some point, corporate controlled ABP might even become adventurous enough to let singer-songwriters take the stage — or rather take the poorly lit corner by the main entrance.
But for now, Veslocki will keep the electric guitar in its case and keep up the classic shtick, which he compared to a painting.
“A painting’s nice and attractive, but people wont come here for a painting,” he said. “But a jazz group … ” he added wistfully, perhaps envisioning a more lively music scene at the humdrum, predictable ABP. Veslocki added that this experience has been different for him as a musician. He said playing at ABP is like going to work (it sure does seem to bring home the bacon … or butter croissant?), as opposed to playing at a club and telling everyone to come to his concert.
But ABP is hoping that Veslocki’s background music will bring in more customers. Burgos said the overall goal of all these changes — adding live music, plusher seating and more desserts — is to bring in more business. The hope is that making ABP more like a coffee shop will entice Yalies to study there more often. And Burgos said that so far, things are going well and business has increased (even if only marginally).
There is the worry, though, that live music will distract studious patrons trying to eke out an essay or problem set. But, as of now, the stream of classical notes are so mild that they don’t seem to interfere with any studying — except that those accustomed to wearing headphones and working to their own, non-classical guitar beat might feel guilty or rude.
And, issues of propriety aside, customers said the new music has not affected their decision to study at ABP at all. Rather, as Macaulay pointed out, she works at ABP because it’s usually easier to find a seat there than at other coffee shops; anyone who has tried to get a table at K2 or Starbucks on a Sunday night will understand. But perhaps ABP will succeed in its goal to become the most popular coffee shop on the block, and finding a seat will no longer be guaranteed.
Students should hurry over to ABP before the master plan takes effect because, if for no other reason, Veslocki offers personal serenades to romantically challenged scene reporters with a weakness for boys who play the guitar.