Hotel Cafe adds music to Vail film fest |

Hotel Cafe adds music to Vail film fest

Sam Chafos
Vail Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyHotel Cafe Musicians have been performing at the Vail Film Festival for years now, but this is the first time they'll be putting on a big concert. Three of the musicians pictured here - Holly Conlan, Cary Brothers and Jay Nash - are all in town for the festivities.

VAIL, Colorado –The Hotel Cafe – which has a second-home in Vail — is a small Hollywood coffeehouse turned singer-songwriter haven. Now a swank venue, bursting at the seams with hipsters and would-be rock stars, it hardly started out that way:

“It was beg, borrow and steal from day one, ’cause you know initially we had no booze at all, not even beer and wine, just a coffee shop,” says club co-owner Max Mamikunian. “We used to charge $5 for a bucket of ice and people could bring in their own beer. And every dime we made went back into the club in some way.”

In fact, in its opening days without a liquor license, its sole offerings were coffee and music. And plenty of heart, which is why the club’s name comes up a lot these days, usually attached to enthusiastic raves about such gifted songsmiths as Cary Brothers and Meiko.

But the Hotel Cafe remains true to its cozy coffeehouse roots. Although the club was eventually granted a liquor license and now sells cold beer, caffeine remains the drug of choice. In general, the feel is low-key and comfortable, with a young, casual crowd of not only music fans but musicians as well.

Audiences can take in the talent and tunes of the Hotel Cafe musicians at their Friday night concert at the Ford Hall in Beaver Creek. At this point, 15 of them are expected to appear – accompanied by Cary Brothers, whose song “Blue Eyes” was featured on the Garden State soundtrack. Coincidentally, Garden State director Zach Braff is also the festival’s Renegade Award winner, making it a reunion of sorts. The all-ages concert is open to all festival passholders, and single tickets are also available for $15 at the door.

“It’s happened slowly,” says Hotel Cafe co-owner Marco Shafer of the scene’s build-up. “We didn’t try to force it, so hopefully it will stay around that much longer.”

“When I first walked in,” adds Ethan Gold, a singer-songwriter and co-founder of a songwriters collective known as the Expatriates, “I felt like I had found the Holy Grail of acoustic-music venues.”

Almost all the musicians who have played the Hotel Cafe seem to concur with Gold’s assessment. In a short amount of time, the place has become not only a successful live venue but also a kind of all-purpose clubhouse for this burgeoning community of L.A. songwriters. And its walls have expanded beyond the small lounge in L.A. – all the way to Vail and beyond, in fact, thanks to the ambitious Hotel Cafe Tour, soundtrack and radio hits, and partnerships with events like the Vail Film Festival.

It’s no accident that the Hotel Cafe musicians have found a home-away-from-home at the festival. Several of their biggest acts (Cary Brothers, Laura Jensen, Meiko) have made their way here for the event for the past several years. And in a way, they’ve stumbled into a festival that shares the same spirit and ethos with which Hotel Cafe was founded.

Founded by the Cross brothers and a group of college buddies with a lot of heart, energy and a lot of caffeine, the film festival continues to operate with an open spirit of friendliness and charm that extends from those who work behind the scenes and who have remained close friends for more than a decade.

“It’s like one of those romantic comedies where the couple keeps meeting by accident once a year,” says festival director Megen Musegades. “It works because they add so much to the festival – they really bring out the best in us. And hopefully we return the favor.”

Sam Chafos is the publicity manager for the Vail Film Festival. E-mail comments to

What: Vail Film Festival’s Hotel Cafe Friday Night Concert

Where: Ford Hall, Beaver Creek

When: 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m, Friday

Cost: Free for Vail Film Festival 2010 passholders; $15 at the door

More information:,

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