One of the things I like best about going to a café to write is the opportunity to let someone else choose the music. At home, I often listen to the radio for company or sit in silence, rather than put the effort into picking something to listen to. It’s a pleasure to let someone else play DJ.
In fact, all other things being equal, the choice of music the first time I go to a café can encourage me to come back. That’s true for San Francisco’s Four Barrel. I fell in love with the place because it has four taxidermied boars’ heads on the wall. In addition to that, by playing David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs — in its entirety — the first time I visited, they cemented my adoration for the place, despite its unnecessarily strong coffee.
Promising me the most pretentious coffeeshop in San Francisco, my husband Mason took me to Sightglass. The competition for the title is stiff, so I was waiting to be impressed when we entered its industrial glass and hardwood warehouse south of Market. On the Sunday afternoon we stopped by, they were playing something that sounded remarkably like the soundtrack to La Dolce Vita. It was so over-the-top pretentious that I couldn’t help but award Sightglass the crown it so richly deserves. The experience made me want to go out of my way to come back, just to see what they’d be playing the next time.
Sitting in the Mercury Café one morning, I heard a Stranglers album from my long-distant past. One lyric jumped out at me and provided the title for my next novel.
I’ll even sit longer in a café than I plan to, if the music is enjoyable. That’s good for my productivity.
Music does more than set the mood. It welcomes people into the café, makes them feel at home, and can inspire as well as entertain. I think, as an element of design and ambiance, it’s often under appreciated.
What music do you like when you write?