The Spirit of Dead Leaf Lives on at Trident Cafe in Boulder

The intimate stage at Trident Cafe.EXPAND
The intimate stage at Trident Cafe.
Courtesy of Trident Cafe

Boulder’s iconic Trident Cafe, which opened in 1980, is a good place to go if you want to feel bad about your fashion sense. Tom Abraham, one of the cafe’s numerous baristas, can generally be found behind the counter in the daytime sporting his trademark fuzzy black hair and glasses, three-day stubble and the kind of sleek clothes Franz Ferdinand might wear on stage. The 26-year-old former University of Colorado student was one half of the brains behind the now-defunct Boulder indie warehouse Dead Leaf, which closed at the end of last year, and he worked around the clock this spring to put Trident on the map as a reliable venue for Boulder musicians, poets and comedians in need of a performance space.

“We have the back patio as our performance space and just got things up and running in May,” says Abraham, who was given the job as Trident’s booking agent in April. “The constant rain and cold kept people away; now it’s starting to look great.”

Slowly but surely, Trident is bringing back a small portion of the underground vibe that Dead Leaf’s disappearance left behind, though not what Abraham calls the “devil-may-care” spirit of the arts warehouse’s raucous all-night concerts, which were filled with young Boulder residents alienated by the otherwise stale selection of bluegrass, alt-folk and jam-band shows around town.

A barista at Trident Cafe in Boulder.
A barista at Trident Cafe in Boulder.
Courtesy of Trident Cafe

“It’s a little bit more of a low-key environment [than Dead Leaf],” says Abraham, “suitable for more thought-provoking events and performances.

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“I think the philosophy that we’ve had — that I’ve been trying to maintain — is having the space for budding artists and musicians, really trying to be accepting of, ‘Cool, you’ve only played one show ever? I’m down to give you a slot.’”

According to musician and poet Benjamin Bentele, who is running the Trident’s new Monday silent-film series (which features live musical accompaniment), “It ain’t that [we’ve] eschewed the rank nonsense of Boulder more than the rest, but it’s home, a corner at a time. We’ve nestled into something new.

“Coffee shops are generally much too hippity-jittery for music — eyes and egos flitting around all over,” Bentele continues. “But a patio: Stretch! Breathe! Sip, slurp tea. And no captives in the audience. [Patrons] and musicians at the Laughing Goat [another Boulder coffee shop] so often compete for the same limited air.”

Trident’s humble wooden stage and tables out back suggest a more obvious performing environment than that of most cafes, and in the past two weeks, it has hosted such diverse acts as hip-hop instrumentalists August Louko and Sphinx Guillano, psychedelic folk act Bareface and singer-songwriters Annie Lo & Co.

Most important to Abraham, however, is that Trident aims to host an interesting event of some kind just about every night this summer, including lectures and interactive theater, comedy and movie screenings in addition to music. 


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