Coffeehouse Goes Café

Last Friday marked a new era of Coffeehouses. Leaving the Underwood room and the Den behind, the first Coffeehouse of the year, featuring visiting singer Juliana Riccardi, took place in the intimate, dimly-lit Lower Left “Café” in Commons.

Casey McQuillen ’11, whose original songs have long become a Coffehouse staple, said, “[The Coffeeouse] went really well…with a darker atmosphere, less people talked.”

Without the distraction of bustling audience members, students paid full attention to guest recording artists from New York City, Juliana Riccardi and Steve Messina.

Riccardi’s lofty, mellifluous voice sounded perfect alongside the bluesy sound of Messina’s guitar. Messina and Riccardi played a total of nine songs, a combination of originals and covers. The two often alternated between lead vocal and harmony.

Recent songs such as “Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley and catchy old classics like Johhny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” showed off the duo’s diverse musical talents. In addition to playing with Riccardi on the road, Messina also plays guitar with a variety of other bands around New York City. His singing, guitar and songwriting skills make it easy to see why Messina is in such high demand as a performer.

Despite their fluid chemistry on stage, Riccardi and Messina’s musical interests, backgrounds and beliefs vary so much that it is hard to believe that they work so well together. Riccardi’s specific inspirations such as Billy Holliday, Eva Cassidy and Jeff Buckley, contrasted with Messina’s liberal philosophy that “everything about life” affects his music.

Riccardi said that she hopes to use universal themes in her music that will “reach people and touch them.” Messina said that he hoped to continue making music until the end of his days.

The guests even made a note of mentioning at how shocked they were with the warm reception they had received from the exuberant Phillips Academy audience.

Of course, it was PA’s own student acts that got the audiences ready for Riccardi and Messina.

The night opened with a rendition of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” by Ricky Marcotte ’11 and Charlie Danner ’11. Throughout the song, Marcotte’s deep voice and Danner’s spot-on guitar playing and vocal harmonies created a rich blend of sound.

Avery Stone ’10 and Lily Schaffer ’10 followed with a cover of Taylor Swift and Colbie Callait’s “Breathe.”

Coffeehouse all-star Charlie Walters ’10 brought a new twist to his act with Chris Calkins ’11 on guitar. The pair lightened the mood with an original rap called “Shoener and Chioma Forever.” Walters spat clever lines such as “Do you know what love is like Haddaway? And you got less class than a Saturday.”

Following the duo, the Yorkies sang “The World’s Greatest” by R. Kelly, B.J. Garry ’10 leading the group with an uncanny impression of the R&B artist.

McQuillen, played and sang along to one her new songs, “Maybe.” The song is set to be on her upcoming album, due out in the summer.

The last student performance of the night Julian Danziger ’11 took the crowd by surprise with a distinctive voice that flawlessly complemented his original ukulele tune, “Tonight.”

Scotty Flemming ’10, this Coffeehouse was “the best of the best.”

To check out some of Riccardi and Messina’s music, go to and