Black Suit Devil sang his soul out on Wednesday, January the 16th.
Mulberry Street Café is a soft-lit, vibrant coffeehouse and small live music venue located at 193 James St. N.
Michael Wickens, a barista and bartender, has worked at Mulberry for a year and a half.
"Everyone here is super nice and open-minded,” he said. “It's a safe space. A lot of people come here because they feel like it's a very homey and welcoming environment. We have live music every Wednesday, and for special events like Supercrawl, we have private events. You can book us out for that."
Cameron Craig makes the sandwiches and soups in the back of the café. “We usually hire solo acts, a lot of acoustic, but we try to do all over the spectrum,” he said. “They start around 7 or 7:30 p.m., and end around 9 p.m.”
Wickens works during most of the live events, and is familiar with the way Mulberry patrons respond to their artists.
"Whether more people come out for a specific act usually depends on the act itself and how much free promotion there is,” Wickens said. “I think especially for more local acts, you'll see a more enthusiastic draw rather than someone who is from out of town."
Originally from Toronto, Andy Du Rego, under the stage name Black Suit Devil, isn’t a stranger to the music scene.
"I started playing when I was 13-years-old,” Du Rego said. “At 14, I started my first band with original music. It was kind of slow at first, but over the years after jumping from band to band, I've finally found my voice with Black Suit Devil."
The music Du Rego creates under Black Suit Devil is folky and soft. Mixed with his powerful, growling voice, Du Rego has cooked up a unique term for his style.
"I call it acoustic-soul, kind of a blend of folk, rock, and blues. I just kind of came up with my own title,” Du Rego said. “A lot of my lyrics deal with social issues like inequality, or poverty and injustice, and that’s where the name comes from – the “black suit devil” represents the corporate elite.”
Du Rego just released his first album under the Black Suit Devil title called The Freedom Sessions. His second album, called A Matter of Time, is to be released in September of 2019.
Du Rego hopes to play more often in Hamilton.
"I'd love to come back, if they'll have me back! I used to frequent here just as a patron enjoying great coffee and found out they do live music,” he said.
Unlike most music venues in downtown Hamilton, Mulberry has no cover.
“We give them (the act) a tip jar and the customers are encouraged to do whatever they feel, but no, we never charge at the door,” Craig said.
This is most likely because Mulberry is a café, and you have to buy a drink or snack to get a table. With the lowest drink price at $2.29, it’s no issue. Mulberry serves a variety of locally sourced booze, as well as lattes and cappuccinos.
"We usually have a majority of Collective Arts Brewing beers – it's always local. I think the most un-local was Oast, who are from Niagara,” said Wickens. “It's mainly Fairweather, Grain and Grit, Wellington, Clippers – all Hamilton based."
Their menu has a variety of fresh, made-in-store drinks and meals, catering to many lifestyles.
"When it comes to vegan or gluten-free options, I think especially when Mulberry first opened, there weren't as many options as there are now. So it definitely drew in an audience,” said Wickens. “Like for me, I'm vegan myself, so it's very easy to eat here. I think people appreciate it."
Rating: I’d give the overall Mulberry Café/Black Suit Devil experience a five out of five. A cozy atmosphere, an inclusive menu, a lively performance and all at student-friendly price –what else do you need?