It was a Saturday night and The Art We Are was packed.
This wasn't unusual for the Kamloops café on concert nights, but the evening would turn out to be anything but usual.
At a few minutes before 10 p.m., the four members of Saskatoon indie-rock band Close Talker stepped on stage for their headline performance. Guitars plugged in, microphones on, the band began to play, then 30 seconds into their first song, the power shut off.
Amps and microphones went silent.
The Victoria Street café went dark.
"And it was just packed in here," said Christina Grono, The Art We Are's owner.
For a few minutes, no one was sure what to do; all of Victoria Street and most of downtown Kamloops was without power.
So, Grono and her staff improvised. They lit candles and placed them around the room. The customers stayed and Close Talker played an unexpected, intimate acoustic show.
"It was phenomenal," said Kayla Pepper, who was there with partner Kevin Skrepnek.
"It definitely felt special because we sort of got this exclusive performance that we wouldn't normally have seen."
Small, intimate concerts — uplanned or otherwise — are how The Art We Are has built a strong following.
The café opened five years ago on the second floor of a 300-block Victoria Street storefront. Two years ago, Kamloops folk/blues singer Trevor Caswell asked if he could play a show there.
The show was a success.
"And then it was like a domino effect," said Grono.
When The Art We Are moved to 246 Victoria St., the bands — and audiences — followed and it has become one of the leading venues for coffeehouse concerts in Kamloops.
Word spread throughout the independent music community about this modest little venue in Kamloops that was hosting live performances.
Soon, bands were calling Grono, asking if they could add The Art We Are to their tour schedule.
It took months to build an audience, though.
"There's been a lot of nights where, you know, in the beginning years, where no one would show up," said Grono.
"And your heart would just kind of break a little bit, but those bands would still play for the one person sitting there."
These days, packed houses are the norm for The Art We Are and Grono doesn't have to search for bands, they come to her. They always have. "I have never ever called a band," said Grono. "They are always contacting me."
The Art We Are isn't the only café hosting concerts in Kamloops.
Two blocks east, at the corner of Victoria and Fifth, The Grind Coffee House recently welcomed Vancouver folk singer Kate Reid, who played a concert in the café's courtyard.
"Performing in a coffeehouse is definitely more intimate and can be really rewarding if there is a good number of people in attendance to contribute to the energy," said Reid.
She likes the "organic" feel of performing in coffeehouse venues. It's the combination of the absence of alcohol and what she has observed as a generally more relaxed attitude in the audience.
"They tend to want to be there to hear the music, as opposed to a bar where they may be there for other reasons besides hearing a live show," said Reid, who sees similarities between today's coffeehouse shows and the early days of folk music.
Reid sings about social issues — particularly gay rights — not unlike her 1960s counterparts, who sang about political and social issues of the day in grassroots coffeehouses across North America.
"I like that feeling of it, that people who come to coffeehouse shows actually want to hear the music and be a part of something, some art, a message, some kind of movement."
Often, though, it's simply about the music — about a good melody, a catchy beat and an engaging performer.
And, for Red Beard Roasters owner Nate Johnson (a musician himself), it's also about providing a venue for bands that might not otherwise have a place to play.
"I remember when I was younger, it was really difficult to find an all-ages venue to play," said Johnson, "especially when I first started playing, because I was underage."
Red Beard Roasters opened a year ago in the former Caffe Movito at 449 Tranquille Rd.
Having created plenty of buzz about the new business and Red Beard's in-house roasted beans, Johnson and wife Dani added to the café's offerings by hosting the occasional live music performance.
The Back Alley Sallies and Alamagokus are two Kamloops bands that have played there. Last week, Alamagokus and fellow Kamloops band Sharks! On Fire! opened for Vancouver's GreenTree.
It was one of the café's louder concerts. Johnson is planning to dial down the sound — as well as the genre — for Red Beard Roasters' next show. He's hoping to book a harp and cellist duo.
Johnson is also investing in sound equipment for future shows. So far, the plan is to hold a concert every month, preferably on a Friday.
"We want to use the venue for more than what we're using it for now," said Johnson, who is committed to hosting live music.
"And, honestly, I'm just a huge fan of live music, so, I guess, it's part of who I am."
Back at The Art We Are, the bands keep calling. Grono is booked through to the end of November.
"I just feel really honoured that I can have them here and that they're just as excited to be here as I am to have them," she said.
"It's just a really neat feeling. . . . Now that we're getting known for our shows, it's really nice to see a constant, solid crowd show up."