Proving Grounds

By Michael Benninger
Portrait by Jeff "Turbo" Corrigan
Venue photography by Dennis Andersen

Before Jewel was a household name, she was a barista in Poway . In 1992, a then-teenage Jewel Kilcher sold refills, not records, at Java Joe's - a coffeehouse / concert hall for folk, blues and jazz musicians. One night she was invited on stage, marking her career debut.

Jason Mraz cut his teeth at Java Joe's, too, but not until 2000, after the venue had moved to a new location in Ocean Beach . His frequent performances at open mic-nights evolved into regular Thursday night shows. In 2001, Mraz released his first acoustic album, Live at Java Joe's, which helped launch his career.

Many other artists got their start at Java Joe's, which has existed in seven different San Diego locations over the past 23 years. Most recently, in January 2013, the venue shuttered its third O.B. iteration, the victim of an ill-fated real estate deal made by the property's landlord.

Now, after more than a year away from the scene, Java Joe's is back - this time in Normal Heights . The latest incarnation of the storied venue opened during the Adams Avenue Unplugged music festival in April. Owner and namesake Joe Flammini is excited about the rebirth of his business and invites locals to catch a buzz with music and caffeine.

"The new Java Joe's is a venue for pure artistic creation," says Flammini. "We want musicians, writers and artists to come express their artistic freedom without pretense."

While artists express themselves, patrons can espresso themselves with coffee brewed using beans exclusively from the acclaimed Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

Look for live performances most nights, featuring longtime local troubadours and fresh-faced up-and-comers alike. And don't forget to tip the barista - she might be America's next mononymous mega-star.

Java Joe's
3536 Adams Ave., Normal Heights
619.283.1151, javajoessd.com

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