Live: John Ralston at Harold's Charity Music Event, November 18

John Ralston
With Voodoo Remnants
Harold's Coffee Shop
Sunday, November 18, 2011

Better than: Not helping a good cause.

It's just another Sunday afternoon at the 514 Northwood Road address just north of West Palm Beach. There's an attractive blond singer strumming her acoustic guitar. She wears a bindi on her head and a sparkling smile on her face. A few customers, scattered singly amongst several wrought iron tables, listen intently. You've arrived at Harold's.

The fresh ground coffee aroma emanates high amongst the grey, wooden rafters, and then straight to the nostrils before one barely walks beyond the red brick of the establishment's exterior.

Tucked within a cozy corner of the room is a couple aged easily in their seventies. Dressed in their Sunday best, they each sip on a foam mountain-topped cappuccino while taking turns on their iPad "Words with Friends" game. This is the progressive Northwood neighborhood after all. It is a gathering place for local musicians and artists, young and old, those who want to "plug in" and those who want to just hang-out. Harold's provides a refuge for them all.
Photo: Monica McGivern
The scene outside before entering Harold's.

Sunday's musical event was organized with all proceeds going toward "The Lord's Place in West Palm Beach, Homeless Help Services." For those with the affinity of tie-dye, there was a chance to wave arms and bodies in free flowing movements via the grass-roots festival jam band style of Voodoo Remnants. I noticed the blond guitarist and singer from earlier dancing carefree with a few others. In total on the back patio there were close to twenty people.

The rich coffee bean aroma began to mix with the fumes of tiki torch oil as the day drifted into evening. Nestled between mint green and navy blue walls, sitting in a crescent moon shape under a blanket of stars, we waited for the John Ralston serenade to begin. After strumming just a few notes of a song off the self-released Wildlands collection, the small voice of Ralston's one year old daughter who was in attendance was heard loud and clear as she said, "Da Da. Da Da." Clearly she had heard this one before and recognized it as a favorite. Already such great taste in music!

A few more off of the Wildlands collection led into an amazing standout from the entire set, a brand new song not yet released, "Living Underground." It had more than a few leaning in closer to block out extraneous noise that is apt to be competing in any outdoor venue, not to mention the added distraction of high amounts of caffeine pumping through our blood. For a few mesmerizing moments throughout the night, all distractions dropped away as Ralston encaptured our spirits with his voice, a guitar, and his passion for sharing his love of music culminating between the two.

Photo: Monica McGivern
Ooooohhh. Pretty colors on the back patio.
The set continued with some extremely captivating moments via old, yet still very much relevant material, as well as a couple of songs from his newest solo effort, Shadows of the Summertime.  After thanking everyone for showing up, he encouraged them to grab some BBQ which would also help the charity.

As I walked back inside, I overheard a customer say, "Wow, I didn't know they were this serious about coffee...." after seeing the several glass ice brewers fastened to the wall. These coffee and tea dream machines are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also functionally flavor inducing. Chris Palacio, a Harold's barista, details the reason why the iced-coffee tastes so good is due to a twelve to 14-hour natural gravity drip process. The result? No excess oils or bitter aftertaste. That does seem serious! Truth is, owner Keith Palagye is seriously dedicated to his business as he may be spotted at Harold's most any day during the weekly grind. Which says a lot considering the place is open seven days a week. With ongoing events (most of which are free) such as, live local music, poetry slams, weekly movie projections, and complimentary WiFi, Harold's coffee is not merely "a coffee lounge" as their tagline suggests. Rather, it's the destination for an ultimate art and music infused coffee experience. But we understand, that might not all fit on the sign.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:
Dude, there are babies around. Enough with the chain smoking in such a condense crowd.

Random Notes: Pending permit approval, Harold's coffee is upsizing it's location by moving directly across the street in just a few months. Construction is already under way on the new building that boasts more square footage inside and on the patios. Harold's will also expand with a wine and beer license. We'll keep you updated as we hear more.

Overheard: "Wasn't there supposed to be three bands on the bill?"

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Monica McGivern