Kafe Kerouac offers its customers quality beers, books and jokes, but a constant flow of artists also adds to the establishment’s appeal.
The poetic pop group Third Class will be joined by solo folk singer Shiloh Hawkins for a free concert Saturday at Kafe Kerouac, a coffee bar located at 2250 N. High St. Both acts hail from rural towns in Columbiana County, Ohio, and have been mutual fans of each other’s work since 2014, said Third Class singer and instrumentalist Lee Boyle.
After playing Kafe Kerouac nearly seven years ago, he said Third Class recently contacted the venue again, noting that the venue’s intellectual aesthetic was an appealing factor.
“We love to delve into the poetic and literary aspects of what music can combine,” Boyle said.
Third Class and its discography have evolved tremendously since 1999, when the group was formed, Boyle said. He said the band were initially punk in sound and style, incorporating elements of the ’90s rock and metal genres before becoming more romantic with age.
The group’s most recent album, “Haunted Until the Very End,” released in 2021, is a collection of experimental pop tracks and the group’s self-proclaimed magnum opus, Boyle said.
“I would say this is the highlight of all of our days of writing about death, romance and happiness,” he said. “I think the music evokes what it’s like to be in a small town and speaks of rural life in the Midwest in this weird way. Hence the haunting and phantom inspirations.
For this gig, Third Class adjusted their setlist to complement Kafe Kerouac’s cozy interior, Boyle said. In an effort to create a smooth and comfortable musical flow, he said the majority of songs will be performed with only a keyboard as a medium. This includes Boyle’s favorite line-up and the title track, “Haunted Until the Very End”.
“It’s a small enough space that you can have a big presence with a small number of instruments,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a place where you sit and do acoustic ballads all day, but it also isn’t a place where you just do punk songs.”
Hawkins said performing at Kafe Kerouac would allow him to embrace the bookish side of his personality while also sharing the stage with one of his favorite bands. Since getting involved in songwriting in high school, Hawkins said she found inspiration in ’90s female artists such as Ani DiFranco.
While Third Class and Hawkins sound different, they fit together in unexpected and pleasing ways, she said.
“The third class is quirky and fun,” said Hawkins. “I think a lot of my solo music tends to be a bit more serious and laid back, so it’s good to have that push and pull of our sounds together. You don’t get exactly the same for two hours.
Hawkins said she can’t wait to share a setlist made up of almost every new track. Missing several opportunities and gigs due to COVID-19 initially led to feelings of hopelessness, but Hawkins said the ability to fight the pandemic with vaccinations had encouraged her to write again.
“I have a lot of unplayed songs for people to hear,” she said. “My new favorite song I’m going to play is called ‘Have A Seat’, and it’s about this old restaurant in my hometown that’s no longer here.”
Hawkins said she returned to Ohio four years ago to pursue music.
“Music really takes you to places you wouldn’t go otherwise,” she said.
The third class free performance and Hawkins at Kafe Kerouac will start on Saturday at 8 p.m. Their music can be found on all streaming platforms.