Wednesday, January 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 47

Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on December 1st, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 16, Issue 39

The Moxie Cafe offers a relaxed hangout for quality live music


Santa Maria has enjoyed a fresh face to the live music venue scene for the past several months in the industrial part of town, not too far from the Sun’s office, at the Moxie Café, where local bands and musicians—this writer and pianist included—get to perform live on Thursday and Friday evenings.

I performed recently at the Moxie, tickling the ivories from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. while guests enjoyed dinner, snacks, and tasty desserts. The Kawai upright piano rang proudly, filling the space with harmony, and the audience was attentive and full of applause. It may not seem like a huge transgression, but it matters to a live musician if an audience applauds or not, and the crowd at Moxie was generous with praise. 

Barbara Wilson stopped by the Moxie Café to join me for a few numbers, adding her jazzy horn playing to songs like “Georgia On My Mind” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Wilson, and her duo with Sandra Woo called Sound on Sound, was the subject of the Nov. 19 Local Notes “Sound of Skill.”

I have my thanks to give to Jay Hardy, president of Hardy Diagnostics, which owns the Moxie Café. You see, the café previously had an antique upright piano, which—full disclosure—they hired me to tune, repair, and perform on. The poor piano was on its last legs, so Hardy asked me to help organize a trade: his beautiful Kawai at home for the rickety, century-old budget piano. With the help of more than one seasoned piano man—that’s Larry Keast and Jim Enos, the latter was also at the show—we got the pianos moved and tuned.

So, Hardy gave up a superior piano at home and went to so much extra effort, all so there was a better instrument to play at the Moxie. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that hardly anybody else has played it, that mostly bands have performed there, and the piano was mostly moved for my sake!

“If we’re going to do piano music, we were going to do it right and have something nice for you to play,” Hardy said. “It was a good swap.”

Hardy and the folks at the Moxie Café want to attract a range of local music fans for the Thursday and Friday live music events, so they’ve already welcomed in a number of different ensembles, Hardy explained.

From local singer-songwriters to bands, and from the Santa Maria Philharmonic’s brass ensemble to the OASIS Ukulele Band, there’s no telling who will show up on the list of upcoming performers. One requirement all groups and soloists must meet though, Hardy said, is they must be accessible to everyone.

“We’ve had such a variety of performances, but our No. 1 rule is they have to be family-friendly, that’s No. 1,” he said. “And also, it’s a kind of showcase for talent. It’s a way people can show off what they’ve been working on, and I don’t see a lot of that going on in Santa Maria, and I think there’s a need for that.”

I can agree with that. As a pianist, I’m always decrying the lack of pianos at local venues, and just Hardy’s and the Moxie Café’s insistence on a real, living acoustic piano speaks volumes to their dedication to quality live music. You hear that, Santa Maria music venues? If you want to meet my standard, there better be a piano on every street corner and storefront by the end of the year!

Enjoy yourself
The Moxie Café includes live music with dinner on Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with The Harvest Hounds on Dec. 3 and an open mic with Matt Kuster on Dec. 4. The Moxie Café is located at 1317 W. McCoy Lane, Santa Maria. More info: or 361-2900.

Part of what helps make the Moxie so special is the cozy corner they’ve tucked the piano and live music space into. I mean, there’s actually a cheerful, roaring fireplace, with a festooned mantle! The restaurant includes a layout that doesn’t impose the music on everyone, Hardy explained, but still showcases it well.

“The live music was part of the original plan when we designed the place,” Hardy said. “We designed the restaurant to be long, so you didn’t have to sit where the music is if you don’t want to, but it was my dream to have that kind of coffee house where people can hang out and enjoy it.”

The audience also enjoys sipping and slurping wine and beer tastings, Hardy said. The café often does beer-tasting flights during live music events, and there’s always local wine available as well as beer on tap.

“All the wine and beer is locally sourced from Buellton up to Paso Robles,” Hardy said. “We don’t sell anything outside of our home territory, which is fine, because gosh, we have so many good choices locally. We don’t have to go outside to get something great.”

The café enjoys regular attendees to the live music nights, but the performers often bring along a following, Hardy said, and this writer is no different. The trumpet-tooting half of Sound on Sound, (and the subject of the Nov. 19 Local Notes column “Sound of Skill”), Barbara Wilson, came along to enjoy the show, and she brought her bugle with her. 

Our first-ever collaboration, Wilson hopped in on a few songs, including a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” complete with wah-wah mute and some great improvisation.

I can’t guarantee a jam session with every musician who shows up, but keep your eyes on the Moxie Café’s live music lineup on their website—they update it often—and I might be playing there again soon. But whether I’m there or not, you can always have a fantastic live music experience at the Moxie Café—with or without the wine.

Arts Editor Joe Payne can be reached at

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