Local coffee shop was an important all ages music venue hosting local and touring musicians of all genres.
The downtown Fredericton community was dealt an unfortunate blow last week when Read’s Newsstand and Café announced it would be closing its doors for good.
Over the past few years the King Street business had become an important venue for live music offering frequent all ages shows with an incredibly varied range of acts from banjo playing folk enthusiasts to ambient noise, punk, and indie rock outfits from across the country.
“Reads has been a real pillar of our community and it’s going to be really sad to watch it go,” said Indigo Poirier, a musician who has performed, booked acts and helped with live sound at many Read’s performances. “Not only was it one of the most welcoming, most comfortable places in town to meet up with friends and have a chat and a coffee, but it was also a cornerstone of the music scene here as an active all-ages venue. I got to see so many wonderful and interesting acts come through, many of whom might have been a little too weird to play at a more commercial venue.
“I also am a member of Fredericton Gender Minorities Group and Read’s was extremely supportive, allowing us to use their space for all sorts of fundraisers over the past two years since I’ve joined,” they said. “The staff was always really wonderful, and it was one of, if not the first music venue in town to take the lead on making their washrooms gender neutral. I know myself and a lot of my trans and genderqueer friends found that made them really comfortable.”
A quick scroll through the past events on the Read’s Facebook page gives a pretty good indication of just how busy they were in hosting live music performances. While they certainly weren’t the only business to offer occasional all ages shows, they were without a doubt one of the most active.
“There are certainly other venues that offer all ages shows and it would be wonderful if some of them were to become more active to fill the missing space Read’s is going to leave,” said Poirier, who would like to see more local businesses open their doors and spaces up to live music. “Café Loka, Bellwether, and the Gallery on Queen are all wonderful spaces and the owners of each have all been enthusiastically supportive of the music scene here.
“Even if another two or three venues popped up to take its place, the loss of Read’s will still hurt because we all have so many shared memories living in those walls. I can imagine walking downtown 20 years from now with a friend or someone from out of town and gesturing at whatever winds up taking that location and being like, ‘This used to be a really amazing venue. I saw some of the coolest shows I’d ever seen in there.’ All I can say is hopefully all that Read’s means to people, that enthusiasm and support will live on through their own passion for the music scene, and its legacy as an all ages venue will live on for a long time.”
I first started hanging out in Fredericton during the weekends of the summer of 2009.
Before I’d leave on Sundays, I’d walk down to Read’s, pick up a coffee and a magazine and take the bus back home.
Yeah, I’ve reached that time in my life where I’m nostalgic for where/what things used to be, including the days where the Maritime Bus (RIP) terminal was downtown.
As it turns out, I was reminiscing about Read’s last year when I lived in Moncton; I’d visit a location close to my house out of nostalgia for the days where I’d bum around downtown.
You’ll hear this cliché ad nauseum concerning Read’s; it was more than a coffee shop.
Oddly enough, I don’t immediately associate it with the community part. It’s a place of endings, departures and finals for me.
In 2010, I sprinted down there to run errands before the overtime of the infamous Canada-US men’s hockey final at the Vancouver Olympics.
I was there when I hit save on my laptop for the final time during my final undergraduate degree project in April 2015.
I grabbed coffee there before meeting a friend who drove me on the first leg of a trip which would transform me in 2016.
I was also scheduled to play the last show booked in that venue in July.
Thankfully, it’s also a place where I keep coming back.
When I got back in town last December, the first thing I did during my lunch hour as a born again Frederictonian was to grab a coffee at Read’s.
I also did countless interviews in the leather chairs during my days as a music writer and spent hours proofreading, editing and doubting my writing in that room.
I’ve also played shows there. A lot of them.
Beard Springsteen’s been part of two stacked bills which made a great excuse to hang out with the Miesha & The Spanks and Outer Rooms of this world.
The Trick ventured outside The Capital for a rare intimate set to an attentive room of friends and family members.
Also one time, Deep Fryer rocked the coffee shop so hard that we even broke a decorative mug.
Last but not least, I played my first solo set in Fredericton in that room..
My songs of nostalgia/that eternal quest of home, seemed to fit really well in a place which reminded me so much of home.
On the drive back as I drove by myself in my car on Highway 2, as I struggled with general exhaustion and the boredom of that stretch of the road in the middle of the night, I realized that Fredericton is home.
I guess the only thing I needed to do was to visit Read’s yet again.
Today, we mourn this place and the meanings we’ve attached to it.
On my end, I can’t help but think about all the other changes the downtown core has seen. I can’t help but think about all the changes I’ve been through since 2009.
Somehow I’m still here. We’re still here.
The physical space is just a pretext to keep coming back.
Let’s put aside the room, the selection of coffees and the convenience of the location.
Read’s’ biggest contribution was to remind us all that we’ve all been here at one point.
– JE Sheehy (Deep Fryer, The Trick, Beard Springsteen, Starving Ghosts, Saint Jack, Young Satan In Love, etc)