World-class blues acts come to Wilton about a dozen times a year to play at Local’s Café on Main Street in Wilton. Brainchild of Nelson’s Candies’ owner Doug Nelson, the café is a side room to the candy shop with comfortable seating for about 50 people. The room is long, with benches and a long table running along the sides, and tables in the middle. Posters and guitars adorn the walls, and when the lights go low the room has an urban vibe that makes you feel as if you were in a blues club in any major city. Except, perhaps, for the unusually warm hospitality offered here. Doug and his crew serve up free munchies throughout the evening, including a generous sampling of his chocolates.
Local’s Café was first launched in 2002 as a place for open mics and jams. “My family is musically inclined,” explained Doug, “and I thought it would be a good idea to start a café.” After a few years, Doug started booking local bands to do shows several times a year. At the same time he formed his band, Sweet Tooth. Doug was ready to try bringing some bigger acts to the Café, and now there was a house band to open.
The Local’s first big show was with Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson in 2012. “The place was packed,” recalls Doug. “Since then we have had many great blues musicians play here.” Among them are Willie J. Laws, Chris Fitz band, and Bobby Radcliff. “He has been here twice already and we are looking to bring him back next summer,” said Doug. “He has a great stage presence and plays a mean guitar.”
On October 17, Local’s Café presents Cheryl Arena, a Boston based singer-songwriter and harp player who won the 2013 Blues Audience Newsletter Reader’s Poll for Most Outstanding Harmonica Player. “Cheryl used to play at the Rynborn and was very popular,” said Doug. “I expect our audience will include some of those fans.” Tickets are $20 and can be reserved in advance by calling 603-654-5030.
The cover for the shows range from $20 – $30, which allows an affordable evening to see big name acts from Boston, New York and Chicago. “I don’t mind telling you that it is not about money,” said Doug. “It’s just about wanting people to come out and have a good time. Often the bands will work with us to stay within a modest budget or split the house, especially if they are passing through on tour in the area.” Because there is no bar, food service or other distractors you might find in a nightclub, the bands perform in a concert-like atmosphere for an intimate audience. “We draw an older crowd of die-hard blues fans who come to enjoy the show,” explained Doug.
Local’s Café hosts monthly shows from January – October. All shows are BYOB, and Doug urges planning for a designated driver. You can find out more about Nelson’s Candies at their website. For details about their events, visit their Facebook page.