The first time we stumbled across Smokey Joe’s cafe in Cheltenham, I took one look at the function area at the back and thought what a great venue it would make for a little low-key rock’n’roll club. Balanced neatly between ’50s American diner and British Soho coffee bar, it just cried out for a few dancers on the floor and some loud rockin’ tracks. Of course, you can hear good music any day at Smokey Joe’s – the background sounds are always from the ’50s and ’60s, and if you ask nicely they’ll turn down the house music and let you play with the jukebox – but I had this mental picture of the kind of place you’d want to hang out in of an evening. Well, last Friday we launched the first record hop at the cafe, and despite the fact that we’d slotted it in at short notice to fill a fall-down in the pre-Xmas events programme, it seemed to work pretty well indeed.
Proprietor Vickie Godding has been up for the idea from the start, and it’s only taken us this long to get it off the ground as we tried to match my erratic diary with their growing schedule of events. The delay’s been to our benefit, though, as not only has Smokey Joe’s secured an evening drinks licence, but they’ve also installed a rather nifty PA system that avoided my lashing together bits of old hi-fi for a tryout. I’ll put hand on heart and confess that I’m not spinning vinyl – yet – but the sound’s excellent and the neighbours few and far between so we were able to make lots of good rock’n’roll noise all evening. Fortunately, news of the event had reached some of the local dancers, so Mrs M and I weren’t the only ones to be getting our jiving practice in. Hopefully, I resisted the temptation to play endless slightly obscure rockabilly favourites enough to keep a steady flow of ’50s classics coming, but with the odd new sound to tempt folk into the deep and murky recesses of the rock’n’roll scene – too much Link Wray in one go can be a bit scary!
Hopefully, this will now be a regular event in the Smokey Joe’s calendar, and we’re cooking up ideas for a cult movie night with interval music when the new TVs are up and running. Great coffee, cold beer, vintage cocktails, and enough tasty calories to put back the energy you lose on the dance floor – and all just a short walk from Cheltenham High Street: what more could you ask for?
The events programme at Smokey Joe’s is full and varied – check out the latest on their Facebook Page where we’ll put news of the next gig alongside everything else they do. Of course, they’re open every day as well, so it’s a great vintage refuge from the havoc of Xmas shopping.