Saturday, March 14, 2009

More Mojo, Please

Amongst an unassuming strip mall, besides a well trafficked Taichung street, less than 3 blocks away from a crowded Starbucks stands a two story coffee shop that most walker-by would not give more than a second look. However, those willing to take that second look, may be drawn into the throws of Retro Mojo Cafe by it's welcoming sign posted on its door: Push Yo!

It's Saturday night, and the Mojo is at capacity. When I followed the instructions on the door, I was greeted by a chic little barrista who asked me if I had a reservation. That's odd, I thought. But clearly, there was no room around the stage. She offered the staircase. It's her favorite place to watch the show. Firecodes need not apply.

Saturday night is music night here at Retro Mojo. And the Taichung Hipsters apparently have come out of the wood work to fill the bottom floor of this vintage-themed cafe. Chucks and Boots, Leather Jackets, V-Neck Shirts, Tight Jeans, and even multi-colored hair. How have I been here 6 months and not known about this?

I opted out of crowding the walkway. The barrista ushered me up the staircase lined with books, magazines, and vintage vinyl to claim the last empty spot at the laptop bar. An aspiring photographer took aim at frames hanging on the walls. Emphasis on art is a clear trademark of this establishment.

There might be nothing better to prove this than Retro's support of Taichung's local Musicians, and its cultivation of a local scene. As I type, the floorboards are vibrating to the sound of an acoustic funk-blues duo. The jean-clad American with his Scott Stap locks and matching lead vocals leads the group with sure-strummed guitar; his Taiwanese Companion provides rhythmic support with Cajon-based percussion. The duo are rarely out of sync. If I had one critique, though, it would be simply: "Less talk, more rock." As most competant-fish-in-small-pond beatnics are, this group's frontman is quite contemptious of the intricacies of his art.

"If you're having trouble clapping to this next song, it's because it starts out in 9, then goes to 4, but it's also in 11, 19, and 17."

(I'm not kidding. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

Time-signatures aside, the group has been great company, thus far. Live, home-grown originals beats out Karaoke and regurgitated pop-songs any day. And despite what you may think, flange is necessary on every acoustic song played. (Ok, there I was kidding.)

Complementing the artful decor, Mojo sets out to be intentional in keeping this place running. Earth, that is. Menues are fashioned from twine and recycled cardboard, and slipped into an egg-carton cover. Even the flush-free urinal is green-friendly. Fluent in Mandarin? Check out the section on their website addressing Sustainability.

If the ambience of Retro Mojo Cafe isn't enough to draw you in, the espresso menue is quite extensive. And If you're not one to enjoy your music served with a roast, there is even a cafe-sized Beer and Wine list. If you're hungry, I'd suggest the paninis. But if you're planning on joining us for Saturday Night's tunes, get here early: music starts (promptly) at 8, and the seats fill up fast.

The wait-staff are not only professional, but competent. Fluent in both Mandarin and English, their ready and equipped to cheerfully welcome all who step through Mojo's doors. But expect more than a friendly smile, they're each knowledgeable about the contents of their menue, and - coming from a seasoned Barrista - quite capable behind the counter. Case-in-point: the ability to craft a perfect Creme-heart with every flavo

I hope "Retro" is a trend in the making here in Taichung. With an emphasis on intentional sustainability, and cultivated art, Mojo Cafe is a city attraction worth writing home about.


floreta said...

hahaha about the time signatures! i only know the basic time sigs and don't even know what 11, 19 mean so that must be crazy! and cajon's are sooo cool! i got to see someone play one live a month or so ago. i was in awe.

great review!

Don said...

Well written. I can "see" the place and you at the bar typing away. Glad you found a contemporary musical treasure to enjoy on Part 2 of your journey.

Diana said...

The way you describe it makes anything here in California a dump! Haha, maybe I just haven't found anything I really loved like you love this place.

Young Traveler said...

I own the appropriate attire for this place. Too bad I live in Switzerland.

Loved your post and I can SO picture the kind of musician guy you were describing. There is one in every country, no?

insomniaclolita said...

They should really pay you to be an icon, or something. You taichung IT boy!:)

Muppet Soul said...

Oh my... You make me want to get on a plane.

Or at least go find some nice little hole in the wall I can fall in love with. Haven't found any new loves in awhile.

You're a great writer!

the girl in stiletto said...

what's the drink in the picture? if it's coffee-based i love it! (despite the fact that i rarely like coffee) :)

floreta said...

back again for the photos. love the ambience and the heart shaped latte. so cute!

Chase said...

Glad you guys enjoyed the read! It's a great little place. I went back today!

Looking forward to checking out Next Week's music.

sarahlynn said...

Sounds like an adventure and a rad place to hang out! I love the way you write by the way. I am feeling the weight of not having those true friends here today, so I wanted to remind you to hang in there and enjoy the adventure. It sounds like you are!

Lynzi Andre said...

First of all, you aren't the only one who is upset you haven't found this place until now; and second, I want one of those drinks.