The Grant Project
Thanks to a generous grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state partner with the National Endowment for the Humanities, we released IMC Volume One in early 2020. This limited-run LP is a vinyl-only compilation featuring live recordings from the first ten years of the IMC Concert Series at Satori Coffee House, including performances by Ray Bonneville, Richard Buckner, Ryan Culwell, Sam Doores, Tim Easton, Malcolm Holcombe, Will Johnson, Marie/Lepanto, Ramsay Midwood, Gurf Morlix, and Charlie Parr. More information on the record is available here.
In conjunction with the Annual Songwriter Keynote at the University of South Alabama, we held a symposium in the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center (Mainstage Theatre) on the evening of Monday, March 2, 2020. This special event featured a musical performance by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, a short presentation on roots music by Peter Cooper from the Country Music Hall of Fame, and a roundtable discussion that included critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Will Johnson. All attendees received a complimentary copy of IMC Volume One. More information on the symposium is available here.
The Independent Music Collective (IMC) is a registered student organization at the University of South Alabama, a public research institution with 15,000 students located in suburban Mobile. One day in the spring of 2009, Justin St. Clair, currently an Associate Professor of English at USA, overheard a group of students complaining about the lack of live music options near campus. Thinking it might be fun to run a poor man’s version of the Cactus Café, UT-Austin’s legendary on-campus music venue, he offered to sponsor the students if they wanted to start a concert series. And so the IMC was born.
As with many new ventures, the IMC got off to a somewhat uncertain start. Finding an on-campus location for the first concert, for example, didn’t prove feasible, but when the group reached out to Chuck Cox at Satori Coffee House, he graciously offered to host the show. On October 17, 2009, the first IMC concert event – featuring Hurray for the Riff Raff from New Orleans – was held in the backroom at Satori. The IMC has come a long way since its inception, but its partnership with Satori has remained one constant.
In a typical semester, the IMC holds three or four concert events, and over the past decade, the series has grown to become one of the premier listening-room stopovers in the Southeast. In addition to the artists who appear on the LP, the IMC has hosted numerous other nationally acclaimed roots musicians, including David Dondero, Jon Dee Graham, Matthew Ryan, Dan Bern, Otis Gibbs, Eef Barzelay, Kevin Gordon, Scott H. Biram, and Lydia Loveless.
Satori Coffee House
In The Great Good Place (1989), sociologist Ray Oldenburg coins the term “third place” to describe a particular kind of local hangout. Third places, he writes, are “public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” Well-functioning communities require such places: they foster conversation and civic engagement; they’re egalitarian and accommodating; they’re scruffy and comfortable, a home-away-from-home for a motley cast of local characters.
Third places, as Oldenburg’s book declares, “are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the grassroots of a democracy.” Without a doubt, Satori Coffee House is one of the most beloved third places in West Mobile. It began as Satori Sound Records in 1988, but by the turn of the century, file sharing and CD-burning had brought business to a crawl. In an effort to keep the doors open, founder and long-time proprietor Chuck Cox moved all the music into the back and opened a coffee shop up front.
His gambit paid off, and the entire space was soon converted into one of the best-loved gathering places in the area. From club meetings to poetry readings, bull sessions to birthday parties, Satori is an indispensable hub of community activity, a place where everyone is welcome. Now moving into its fourth decade, the converted cottage has figured in the social lives of successive generations of South Alabama students.
Neil and Chuck Byrne bought the establishment in 2018, and, to everyone’s delight, have continued the Satori tradition. Cox has even stayed on as general manager. “It’s a center for multiculturalism,” Neil Byrne told the Mobile Press-Register. “We don’t want to change that. I want it to be deep in the arts – all types of music and culture, so everybody can learn from everybody. Then, we can enjoy and love and appreciate everyone’s uniqueness.”